The Solomon Islands will face tough competition in the first round of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009 after being drawn in Group A alongside Portugal, Uruguay and hosts UAE.
FIFA’s official draw took place at the Dubai World Trade Centre overnight and featured several stars of world football including New Caledonian native and France 98 winner Christian Karembeu.
In what will be their fourth consecutive World Cup appearance, the Bilikiki team have avoided big names such as Brazil and Spain but will still face two of the world’s top four teams in Paraguay and Uruguay. The Oceania champions have a FIFA world ranking of 14 while Portugal, Uruguay and UAE are ranked 3rd, 4th and 19th respectively.
Portugal will arguably pose the biggest threat after an impressive display at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Marseille 2008 where they beat Italy in the 3rd/4th place playoff having earlier lost 4-5 in the semi-final to eventual winners Brazil. The Portuguese have also proved too strong for the Solomon Islands on two previous occasions during the 2006 and 2008 group stages.
Uruguay were runners-up at FIFA’s pinnacle event in 2006 and followed that up with a third placing the following year. In their only World Cup match up with the Solomon Islands in 2006, the South Americans ran out 10-5 winners.
Meanwhile UAE have appeared in the past two FIFA events finishing 14th and 10th respectively.
The official draw was conducted by Joao Cusco, a member of the FIFA Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee, and also featured Ramiro Amarelle, Spain’s hugely talented beach soccer captain who won the adidas Golden Ball and Silver Shoe winner at Marseille 2008, local hero Backhit Saad, a former professional footballer and now a star member of the UAE team, and Christian Karembeu.
The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009 will take place on Jumeirah Beach from 16-22 November. AFC is set to hold its qualifiers shortly to determine Asia’s two participating teams that will complete the 16-team line-up.
The draw for the group phase is as follows: