#FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup

Interview with Mikhail Likhachev

FIFA, 27 Jan 2022


After leading Russia to a third Beach Soccer World Cup triumph, head coach Mikhail Likhachev recounts a memorable tournament for the host nation.


How were your preparations for the World Cup?How was your tournament preparation before the World Cup?

We started getting ready for the World Cup in February. We tried to get together for at least eight to ten days each month so that we could get a better idea of the footballing principles that we were going to teach. Our actual training for the World Cup began in earnest on 1 August. We had two training camps and a trial match with Oman which we won 5-4. Overall, it was gratifying for me as a coach that we managed to do everything that was in our preparation plan.

Did you have all your players available to you?

Fortunately, all of the players I had originally wanted were available to me. We managed to avoid any injuries and COVID-19 infections during our preparations and the World Cup itself, thank goodness.

How did the four-second rule affect your team’s play?

I feel our squad was one of the first to adapt well to this rule. It was a tough test for everyone, but we showed through our football that we were able to get through it smoothly.


What difficulties did you encounter in the group stage and how did you solve them?

After our first match against the USA, which wasn’t the easiest of matches [a 5-4 win after extra time], it was clear that we needed to make certain adjustments to our game. I feel a lot of things worked for us in our match against Paraguay, and by the time we faced Japan, we had worked out our tactical pattern, which helped us through the rest of the tournament.

You played a perfect group stage by finishing first in your group. Did you change the way you played in the knockout matches?

The approach we took against Japan served as a model for what we needed to do in the knockout stage. Basically, in all of our matches from the quarter-finals onwards, we were playing the kind of football I wanted to see from our team.

How does it feel having won the third FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup for your country, especially at home?

I’m over the moon that we won the World Cup. It was the third time we’ve achieved this, and we did it at home in Moscow in front of our fans. Of course, it’s an indescribable feeling, and one that I will remember forever. I think it’s difficult to compare it with anything else.

The nail-biter that the fans watched in that clash between Russia and Switzerland will stay forever in the memories of everyone who saw it.

What are the differences between this team and the formidable Russian side that triumphed for two consecutive editions in Italy (2011) and in Tahiti (2013)? And above all, how important was the link between you and the wonderful players who were also present ten years ago in the first World Cup victory such as Krash, Makarov, Paporotnyi, Shishin and Shkarin?

With their experience and expertise, of course these players who were in our squad ten years ago and won the World Cup helped the youngsters who were appearing at their first big celebration of beach soccer in this World Cup. Above all, they and the coaching staff held on to that winning feeling over all those years and contributed a lot of important things that enabled us to triumph in this World Cup at home.

After the first two tough games against USA and Paraguay, how important was that 7-1 win in the group stage against Japan. Was that the key moment of your World Cup?

Yes, the match against Japan was a game-changer. As our goalkeeping coach, Andrei Bukhlitsky, rightly pointed out, we were a completely different side when we came away from that game, we were more assured and pumped up for the knockout stage. I’m happy that when it came to the crunch in this World Cup, when it wasn’t clear whether we’d make it through the group stage, we played such fantastic football.

The quarter-final against Spain was a very tough game: that evening you lost 3 key players (Makarov, Paporotnyi, Zemskov) ahead of the semi-final against Switzerland, undoubtedly the best and the fittest team up until that moment. How did you prepare the team for that semi-final and how did you manage to remedy the absences?

Losing three players just before the semi-final against Switzerland was a huge blow for our team. They were the leaders of our squad and our key players. It was very important to take the right decisions regarding the way we were going to play and the make-up of our team, and above all to convince the guys that despite these absences, we could still compete for a place in the final. I was expecting the match to be tough, and so it proved. Of course, the nail-biter that the fans watched in that clash between Russia and Switzerland will stay forever in the memories of everyone who saw it, because there’s no real way anyone could come up with a Hollywood script like that. It was the kind of thing that could only happen in real life.


Mikhail, you’ve won three FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups now, moving you within one title of Alexandre Soares’ four triumphs with Brazil. Is the target now to equal his record?

Alexandre Soares is a good friend of mine and a terrific beach soccer coach. Winning four World Cups is a massive achievement. I have to look up to him and, of course, I’d like to equal his tally of titles. I can say that in my dreams, I’d like to win another World Cup, but I realise that’s a tall order because the standard of beach soccer has improved dramatically over the last ten years.

It’s very difficult to say what will happen in the future. In any case, I’m happy to be doing what I love most, and of course I enjoy being the head coach for all of Russia’s matches because I get an indescribable kick out of leading our country’s squad and being able to experience moments like these, at this home World Cup, together with them.

Rate your experience

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.