The semi-finals at the Beach Soccer on Day 4 went according to script, with the highest ranked teams moving on to the gold medal matches tomorrow. However, there was still plenty of excitement and drama, as no team wanting to be playing for bronze.
It was always going to be tough for Great Britain in the first women’s semi-final, with Katie Louise James and Hannah Jean Short missing due to suspension. The technical skills of the Brazilians also troubled the Brits, with captain, Sarah Elizabeth Kempson (GBR) visually frustrated, allowing Brazil to score two early goals and end the first period leading 4–2.
After a scoreless second period, the stalemate was finally broken by Brazil’s Nayara Virginia De Couto, to push their advantage to three. The British women started getting more physical, allowing them to score two quick goals, with the match turning into a struggle between power and finesse.
A contentious penalty, with five minutes left, was called against Great Britain, but a massive save from Hannah Mary Haughton (GBR) got the British fans off their seats and started to become more vocal. This motivated the British women, who finally equalised, thanks to Wendy Irene Martin converting her penalty attempt with 1:41 remaining.
Another free kick was awarded to Britain, with one-minute remaining. A full-pitch effort from Kempson finding the top right of the net. With Great Britain leading 6–5, with a minute remaining, fans were already celebrating, until Adriele Rocha Da Silva (BRA) was impeded in the penalty box with two seconds remaining.
With a chance to send the match to extra time, Adriele struck the ball, aiming for the top of the net, but instead of hitting the mesh, the ball ricochet off Haughton’s hand and out of bounds. Great Britain through to the final.
Emotion poured from the team, especially from Haughton, who sharing her feelings after the match said, “Oh, I just cried, it just oh. We’ve gotten to the world final, like this is incredible and yeah, just being able to help my team in those last couple of seconds after all they’ve helped me through it’s just incredible.”
In the second women’s semi-final, Spain got off to the worst start possible, conceding an own goal to Russia one-minute in. It was a slow start for the Spaniards, with undisciplined play resulting in the tournament’s highest scoring team taking 10 minutes to get off the mark.
Spain’s intensity and skills returned, but it was another 13 minutes until they finally equalised late in the second period. The Russians didn’t allow the Spanish to get into their rhythm and flow, and it came down to a deflected ball off Carla Morera Rincon’s (ESP) foot, to separate the two teams. Spain advances 3–2.
Russian Federation played Islamic Republic of Iran in the first of the men’s semi-finals, with the Russians desperate to break a three-match losing streak against the Asian powerhouse. As a result, they started strong, scoring three goals in the first period, but Iran finally responded with two of their own late in the second.
Tensions were running high, with two yellow cards issued halfway through the third period. This motivated the Russians, who went on a three-goal scoring blitz in the remaining three minutes, blowing out the scoreline, 6–2.
World No 1 Brazil ended the night, facing off against World No 4 Italy, but the Brazilians came out firing, bombarding the Italian goalkeeper with shot after shot. Simone Del Mestre (ITA) absorbed the pressure, but finally broke in the fourth minute conceding a goal to Filipe Duarte Da Silva (BRA).
The Italian’s finally got on the board, courtesy of the tournament’s leading goal scorer, Gabriele Gori, who scored 30 seconds into the start of the second period. Brazilian captain Rodrigo Soares Da Costa grabbed that goal back a minute later, but the Italians had a taste for the back of the net, scoring again, four seconds later. However, Brazil ended the period with three unanswered goals.
Italy started the third the same as the second period, scoring two goals in the first two minutes, but Brazil continued to control the match, leading 7-5 with one-minute remaining. The Italians thought they had a chance when Gori headed the ball into the goal with 0:48 remaining, but the referees deemed he committed a foul on the play, waving away the goal and Italy’s chances in the process.
The medal matches will be contested tomorrow (Wednesday 16 October), with World No 1 Brazil facing World No 3 Russia in the men’s gold medal match, and Italy facing Iran for bronze.
On the women’s side, the top two European sides will face each other for the gold medal, with Spain against Great Britain. Russia will play Brazil in the bronze medal match.
Tournament goal tally is 372 goals.