The wait is nearly over and the city of Nassau is counting down the hours to the start of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017.
The scene is set for the ninth staging of the world finals – a tournament on the sand that promises lots of sun, spectacular action and an amazing atmosphere.
On Thursday 24 April, Iran and Mexico will have the honour of raising the curtain on a competition that is sure to offer plenty of excitement for the fans flocking to the National Beach Soccer Arena in Nassau. FIFA.com looks ahead to the tournament, which will reach its conclusion on Sunday 7 May.
Five things to watch at Bahamas 2017
1. The experience of champions
Returning to defend the title they won on home sand two years ago, Portugal possess a host of well-known attributes. Madjer and Co are looking to become the third nation to retain the world crown, after Brazil and Russia, a surprise absentee from Bahamas 2017.
2. Brazil back on the title trail
Victorious in the four editions between 2006 and 2011, A Verdeamarela are another of the favourites for the title. Having won the South American qualifying competition with plenty to spare, the Brazilians have every intention of making Nassau the venue for their return to the pinnacle.
3. The outside bets
Though Italy have yet to lift the trophy, their proven ability to go deep into the tournament makes them a force to be reckoned with, especially with the free-scoring Gabriele Gori leading their attack. Asian champions Iran boast a seasoned and experienced squad, while Senegal excelled in a tough African qualifying competition and Tahiti have been one of the revelations of recent seasons.
4. New boys hungry for success
Host nation the Bahamas, Panama and Ecuador are all making their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup debuts. The newly crowned CONCACAF champions, Los Canaleros are sure to pose a stern test, while the Bahamas will have the support of their fervent fans behind them.
5. Home boys Bahamas
With a superb stadium in place and a growing sense of anticipation and excitement in the street, the Bahamas are raring to go for their first appearance in a FIFA tournament. And what better way to do that than by hosting the Beach Soccer World Cup? In preparing for the competition, the hosts travelled to Europe, where, among other things, they spent several weeks with the Switzerland team, training and playing against them on several occasions.
“We are delighted. The Bahamas is the perfect venue: it has a passion for sport and for tourism. We’ve built a spectacular stadium that meets all the needs of what is a very big tournament. Given the experience we had at the qualifiers and the feedback we’re getting from people, we’re absolutely convinced that the tournament is going to be a massive success from day one.”