Bringing the Copacabana samba spirit to Netanya

The world champion Brazil national beach soccer team plays Israel in a one-off friendly game.

beach soccer 88 (photo credit: )
beach soccer 88
(photo credit: )
Netanya's Poleg Beach will be transformed into the Israeli equivalent of Copacabana Beach on Friday afternoon when the world champion Brazil national beach soccer team plays Israel in a one-off friendly game. The team in gold has a long history of success in a sport played on the playas across South America for decades. Amazingly it has not lost a game since 2005, a run which includes winning the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2006 and 2007, both of which were held in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, Brazil has won the competition every year since its inauguration in 1995, apart from in 2001 and 2005. While the Samba boys will no doubt display the flicks and kicks which have made them the best on the planet, the Israeli team will be no pushover in the match that has been organized as part of the celebrations for Israel's 60th anniversary. A year ago, Benni Lam's team produced a stunning performance to defeat Germany 4-3 in the final of the Diamonds Challenge beach soccer tournament in front of 3,200 ecstatic supporters. The event saw former Manchester United great Eric Cantona coaching a France team which lost in the semis to Germany. And just two weeks ago, Israel stormed to victory in the six-team international Challenge Cup on Poleg, again beating Germany 4-3 in the final on the same weekend that the Germans lost in the final of Euro 2008. An Israeli beach soccer league was launched in 2007 and has proved to be a big success. Last year the championship was won by the Netanya Diamonds, which beat Rosh Ha'ayin in the final. This summer, games have continued to be played each Friday on Poleg beach. Netanya's team qualified for the European Beach Soccer Champions League tournament in Lenk, Switzerland, and did well to get to the semifinals last week before being knocked out by Czech team Beach Soccer Cheb, losing 8-7 in extra time. Last month Rosh Ha'ayin did even better, winning the Capital Cup tournament in Cyprus, defeating the much-fancied Boca Juniors of Argentina in the final 6-3. The Israel vs Brazil match will be seen by Brazil's management as crucial preparation for the team's challenge in this year's FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, to be held in Marseilles, France, between July 17 and 27 this year. It will be the first time the world championship has been played outside of Brazil. Many of Brazil's stars will play in Netanya, including Bruno and Benjamin. Super striker Tzahi Ilos will, as usual, be Israel's target man and will be expected to grab a few goals against the Brazilians. The game will be preceeded by local Israeli league fixtures from 1 p.m. when Tel Aviv faces Jerusalem. Israel vs Brazil kicks off at 6 p.m. Entrance is free.