A pair for Petrova: Defender at double as Russia begin defense of women’s beach football title with thrilling 4-2 win over Ukraine

Russia have made a rampaging start to the defense of their European beach football crown by coming from behind to beat newcomers Ukraine 4-2 in Portugal.

Defender Anna Petrova was the hero in the first group-stage game, scoring two stunning goals to ensure her country started with a win.

Petrova, who had only found the net twice in her previous 18 appearances, lobbed the goalkeeper from distance in the seventh minute before scoring from inside her own half to make it 2-2.

Yana Zubilova and Anna Akylbaeva then sealed the victory against opponents taking part in their first European championship.

The tournament has a new format for the final eight teams this year, taking place in Figueira da Foz on the Portuguese coast.

The finalists are split into two groups of four teams, with the winners of each group taking part in the final and the rest facing a series of matches to decide where they finish against the team in the corresponding position in the other group.

Spain beat the Netherlands 3-0 in the other game in Group 2. La Roja face Ukraine and Russia play the Dutch on Friday, with the final group games taking place on Saturday and the play-off stage and final following on Sunday.

In Group 1, Switzerland beat the Czech Republic 4-1 and England came from behind twice to edge past Portugal 3-2.

England have moved above Russia in the rankings and are considered by some as favourites to oust the winners of the Women’s Euro Beach Soccer Cup in 2019.

Spain are currently top of the rankings and won the ANOC World Beach Games in Qatar in 2019, while Ukraine contain many of the players who lifted the 2020 Euro Winners Cup title.

"It was not easy but the main thing was victory," reported Russia's beach soccer page on Instagram. "Our girls are great."

The men's team made an even better start to the finals, thrashing Poland 7-2 in their opening match less than two weeks after winning the World Cup for the third time with victory in Moscow.

The newly-crowned champions wore three stars on their shirts in recognition of what is now a hat-trick of World Cup triumphs, as well as badges in honor of Alexander Berezkin, a referee who died last week.

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