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24 Oct 2012
Defending Champions land in Dubai
Russia determined to return to its unbeatable in the second edition of the Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup
The Russian beach soccer team arrived in Dubai on Tuesday, ahead of the Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup 2012, which kicks off on October 30, at Dubai Festival City.
The defending champions touched down on Emirati soil days before their opponents, who are not due to land in the country until October 27, determined to retain the championship trophy. It has been a bittersweet season for the Russians, a season which saw the current World Cup holders topple from the top spot in Europe.
After their loss at home to Spain in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2013 – Europe Qualifier Moscow - and being dethroned as Euro Beach Soccer League kings by Switzerland, in The Hague, Likhachev’s side have their sight set on leaving Dubai carrying the championship trophy.
To do so, the World Champions landed in the UAE with the brilliant squad that made them champions of everything last season. Players such as Leonov, team’s captain and alma mater, the exquisite Alexei Makarov, the spectacular goalkeeper Andriy Bukhlitskiy, considered the best under the crossbar, the super-talented Egor Shaykov and Dmtriy Shishin, among many others, will hit soft golden desert sand, in the Festival City Stadium, in the hopes of reclaiming what they feel is theirs; the highest place in the Beach Soccer universe…
Ahead of this battle, Russia National Coach Mikhail Likhachev wants his team fully focused on the objective: “We have a unique opportunity to show that we want to be on top again. After the upsets in Moscow and the Euro Beach Soccer League Super final, the Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup is the perfect stage for us to show our best version. We have been training hard to get to the tournament in the best shape. We know that our opponents will make the way terribly hard for us. We are facing the best among the best, and you have to do things really well if you want to beat such powerful teams as Switzerland, Brazil, UAE…”
Echoing his coach’s comments, the team’s captain, Ilya Leonov, highlighted the importance of taking part in one of the most prestigious and demanding beach soccer events in the world: “The Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup is one of those tournaments every player wants to be part of. You face here the best sides in the world and you do it in an amazing place, where beach soccer’s beat is strongly felt and supported. We have been working hard to be up to the level of this competition.”
Leonov, who currently holds the title of best player in the world after being named the adidas Golden Ball in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011 Ravenna/Italy, looks forward to meeting one team he has not played against during his career: the USA.
“They are a mystery to our team, as we have never faced. It is going to be a really nice opening of the competition for us,” he said.
The first contact the World Champions will have with the sand in Dubai will take place next Thursday, October 25th, when Russia takes on the UAE National side in the first game of two friendly matches. The day after, Friday 26th, hosts and defending champions will see each other again.