It was heartbreak for Asian champions Japan as they were edged out on penalties by two time champions Portugal in a thrilling semi-finals of the beach soccer World Cup in Asuncion.
Portugal edged Japan 2-1 on penalties after the match finished 3-3 after extra time. It will be an all European affair in the final with Italy edging out another two time champions Russia in a high scoring 8-7 match.
All of Portugal’s goals came from brothers Be and Leo Martins, with the former scoring a decisive double in the third period.
Portugal took an early lead through Leo Martins, however, Japan fought their way back into the match and took a 2-1 lead thanks to Ozu Moreira and Shusei Yamauchi’s goals.
Takuya Akaguma scored with less than a minute on the clock to send the game to extra time played in heavy rain.
With the rain teeming down, Portugal won in the penalty shoot-out thanks to goals from Madjer and Coimbra to book a place in the final.
Portugal last won the title in 2015 exploits on home soil.
“This is not a victory of the Martins brother, but of Portugal. Without the trust of the team, none of us could accomplish anything. That is our virtue: we share responsibilities and deliver,” said Portugal forward Be Martins
The earlier semi-final between Russia, who had accounted for Brazil in the quarter-finals, and Italy was also played in a torrential Asuncion summer rain storm.
It was a thrilling back-and-forth semi-final before the Italians won in extra time.
Gabriele Gori and Dario Ramacciotti both scored hat-tricks to lead Azzurri to their first final since 2008.
Andrei Novikov opened the scoring with his first goal of the tournament, a free-kick from about midway. Italy captain Francesco Corosiniti equalised with a header from a corner kick. Dario Ramacciotti capitalised on a mistake by Alexey Makarov to put Azzurri in front after the first period.
Makarov made amends at the beginning of the second period, hitting a powerful shot into the top corner. Ramacciotti got Italy back in the lead before Fedor Zemskov scored a double before the second interval.
Gori, now on a tournament-leading 16 goals, scored three goals in a wild third period, which also saw Kirill Romanov score a brace, Makarov add another and Ramacciotti complete his hat-trick to send the game into extra time.
Emmanuele Zurlo once again scored the winning goal, this time from the penalty spot after Artur Paporotnyi saw red, to ensure Italy booked a place in Sunday’s final. Italy already know they will better their performance from two years ago when they finished in fourth place.
“That was probably the craziest match I’ve ever played in, not only because of the wind and the rain, but also because of the lead changes. Russia is a great team, they did some impressive things today. Why did we win it? Because we scored one more goal; there is no other way to explain a game like that one,” said Italy goalkeeper Simone Del Mestre
Meanwhile Fifa also unveiled the ten-player shortlist for the adidas Golden Ball, as selected by the Technical Study Group (TSG). In no particular order, the shortlist is as follows: Takuya Akaguma (Japan), Coimbra (Portugal), Gabriele Gori (Italy), Jordan (Portugal), Leo Martins (Portugal), Ozu Moreira (Japan), Boris Nikonorov (Russia), Artur Paporotnyi (Russia), Fedor Zemskov (Russia) and Emmanuele Zurlo (Italy).