Sat, Nov 04, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Favorites impress in Rio

AP , RIO DE JANEIRO

Pre-tournament favorites Argentina and Portugal got off to a winning start in FIFA's Beach Soccer World Cup on Thursday in Brazil.

Argentina beat Nigeria 5-4 behind two goals each by midfielder Santiago Lopez Hilaire and striker Facundo Minici -- who scored on a bicycle kick in addition to the match winner.

Portugal defeated Uruguay by the same score, rallying with two late goals by defender Hernani and forward Madjer.

In the other two matches on Copacabana Beach on Thursday, Bahrain beat Italy 4-2 and the Solomon Islands beat Cameroon 5-2.

Defending champion France was to debut yesterday against Spain, while host Brazil faced Poland.

Brazil was a nine-time champion under Beach Soccer Worldwide's reign, but France won the inaugural title when FIFA took over last year. Brazil was upset by Portugal in the semi-finals and failed to win the crown for only the second time since it was first contested in 1995.

This year's tournament has 16 teams, four more than last year. The nations in Group A are Brazil, Poland, the US and Japan. Group B has Spain, France, Canada and Iran. The Solomon Islands, Cameroon, Portugal and Uruguay are in Group C, and Italy, Bahrain, Argentina and Nigeria are in Group D.

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