Team USA Falls Agonizingly Short Of Greatest Beach Soccer World Cup Upset Ever

Host Russia needed extra time to defeat the U.S. 5-4.

Over the course of the last five FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups, Russia has won the competition twice and finished third twice. Over that same period, the United States has won one single game. 

On Thursday, the 2021 Beach Soccer World Cup kicked off with Russia, the host of the tournament, welcoming Team USA to the 5,000-seat Luzhniki Beach Soccer Stadium in Moscow.

This was supposed to be a dream start to the festivities for Russia. Vladimir Putin promised as much when appearing on our TV screens prior to kickoff with a message about how Russia is the best, its coastline is the best and the 2018 World Cup was the best. FIFA president Gianni Infantino then appeared and said the same thing.

But the U.S. started strong with goalkeeper Christopher Toth ripping a half-volley early that Russia’s keeper had to claw out of the corner. Minutes later, Nicolas Perea made it 1-0 to Team USA with a blast that went crossbar down.   

The U.S. got physical for the remainder of the first period, resulting in a number of Russia “create a little sand tee and smash it” opportunities that they blasted wide. Unfortunately for the Stars and Stripes, Boris Nikonorov did equalize shortly before the whistle.

However, three minutes into the second, Alessandro Canale drew the foul right in front of Russia’s goal, brushed the sand off his face, created his little tee and ripped the penalty beyond Maksim Chuzhkov. 2-1 USA.

Chants of “ROSS-I-YA” rained down from the stands, and Anton Shkarin got the equalizer with seven minutes to go in the second from a bouncing and bounding shot that used all the little dunes to its advantage. 

The U.S. dream took a huge hit minutes later when Russia converted back-to-back headers in a short span to go up 4-2, and that’s how we entered the third and final period. 

But the U.S. quickly pulled one back to start the third — a beautiful connection between captain Perera and Canale.

And then, with just 4:20 to go, Team USA stunned the Luzhniki. 4-4.

There are no draws at the Beach Soccer World Cup because that sort of thing is for suckers, so we went to extra time. 

But with only 13 second remaining in the OT period, Russia earned a deserved penalty that they buried. Somehow Team USA managed a response that required a Russian clearance off the goal-line, but the Luzhniki finally exhaled with the sound of the final whistle.

It’s heartbreaking for the United States, but it’s a hugely promising start for a country that historically has never advanced to the knockout stage. Next up is a must-win match against Japan on Saturday.

Japan beat Paraguay 7-4 in the group’s earlier match. I highly recommend you turn on Universo and just let it play throughout the day.

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