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Japan set for blockbuster opener

Asunción: Japan will begin their campaign against host nation Paraguay, while UAE and Oman landed in challenging groups as the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Paraguay 2019 draw was staged on Friday.

The Asian contenders, who qualified after finishing as the top three sides in March’s AFC Beach Soccer Championship Thailand 2019, will look to follow in the footsteps of Islamic Republic of Iran, who reached the semi-finals in the previous edition in the Bahamas two years ago.

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Having lifted the Asian title six months ago, all eyes will once again be on Japan – and star player Ozu Moreira - when they meet tournament hosts Paraguay on the opening night on November 21, before further Group A matches against USA and Switzerland.

AFC Beach Soccer Championship runners-up UAE’s biggest competition in Group C will come in the shape of World Number Three-ranked Russia, but neither Belarus nor Senegal are likely to be easy-beats in a demanding opening challenge for the West Asians.

Oman’s draw appears the most difficult of the Asian trio, landing alongside both of the two highest ranked sides in the world, in World Number One and defending champions Brazil and second-ranked Portugal.

Talib Hilal’s side, who will be appearing at the Finals for the third time, will also meet Nigeria in Group D.

The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup group stage concludes on November 26, with the top eight sides to advance to the knockout stage ahead of the final on December 1.

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