Holders Portugal were pushed all the way by UAE, but scraped over the line to keep their title defence alive and advance to the quarter-finals of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017.
Four-time champions Brazil and the runners-up at the last edition, Tahiti, made lighter work of their respective matches to ease through.
This heavyweight trio are joined by Paraguay, who booked a ticket to the last eight for the very first time.
In all, the group stage yielded an average of 8.7 goals per game. If this rate is maintained during the rest of the competition, this will go down as the third-highest-scoring edition in the tournament’s history.
Paraguay 5-2 Panama
UAE 1-2 Portugal (aet)
Tahiti 8-4 Poland
Brazil 9-3 Japan
1. Champions made to sweat. There is a difference between doing just enough and living up to expectations. This will not be lost on the Portugal players and, with Brazil up next, they will know full well that they will have to up their game if they are to avoid an early exit: “We’re happy to have made it through to the next round. We wanted to top the group, but we’ll settle for second place. The match against Brazil will be like an early final,” Belchior, the scorer of the holders’ first goal against UAE, told FIFA.com.
2. Third time is a charm. After falling at the first hurdle in their first two Beach Soccer World Cup appearances, Paraguay have broken new ground by finally progressing from the group stage in the Bahamas. “This is a historic achievement for our country and we’re really proud,” said Sergio Villaverde, who set the Paraguayans on their way by opening the scoring against Panama after just 45 seconds. La Albirroja will be the only new face in the quarter-finals.
3. A fond farewell. The defeat by Tahiti closed the book on the career of Poland’s Boguslaw Saganowski, who was honoured by his team-mates and opponents alike after the encounter. “It fills me with sadness and pain that my adventure in this wonderful sport has come to an end, but I can’t hold back time or deceive my body any longer,” the visibly emotional 40-year-old told FIFA.com. The pivot retires after adding four goals to his Beach Soccer World Cup tally in the Bahamas.