Ramiro Amarelle was the ace in the Spanish pack for many years, gracing every FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup with La Roja from 2005 to 2009. Absent from Ravenna 2011 because of his side’s failure to qualify, the No10 has since retired from international duty, having rightfully earned a reputation as one of the game’s great players.
One man who will undoubtedly miss Amarelle at Tahiti 2013 is his friend Nico, who is readying himself for his sixth world finals and the added responsibility of leading the team in his former team-mate’s absence.
Yet, as the 37-year-old told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview following one of Spain’s last training sessions before their opening match against USA, he is willing to shoulder the burden:
“I know what the situation is and it doesn’t weight heavy on me. Every member of this team knows what they have to do and I don’t think there’s anyone who feels the need to stand out in any way. But if that’s a role I have to fulfil, then it’s not a problem for me. I’m big enough and old enough to be able to handle that pressure.”
Touching on Amarelle’s retirement, the No6, who has scored 14 goals in 18 world finals matches, said: “Ramiro’s absence is felt in the dressing room, but it’s a lot more noticeable out on the sand. He was more than just our captain. He was our go-to man on the pitch. But we have to adapt now and make up for him not being around by playing a different type of game.”
Spain face quite a challenge in Tahiti, where they make their return to the global showpiece following their failure to qualify for Ravenna 2011.
“That really hurt,” admitted Nico. “When you’re used to fighting for major titles it really affects you to miss out on a World Cup. Coming back has made us stronger though. You can see that in our training sessions, which have been pretty intensive, and in the summer we’ve had. We won the Mundialito for the first time and reached the semi-finals of the Euro Beach Soccer League.”
Given his vast experience, the Deportivo La Coruna-supporting Nico is well qualified to assess Spain’s level of preparation: “On a scale of one to ten, I’d give us an eight. We’ll make up for the rest with our enthusiasm, determination and desire.”
Nor does the fact the Spain are being ranked among the tournament favourites appear to faze the veteran: “Given our track record it’s only natural really,” he said. “We’re always there or thereabouts, and I don’t see why we can’t handle that kind of pressure. We always have our minds on winning, wherever we go. We don’t have basic objectives. We just aim for the top. We always want to be the champions.”
His words are underpinned by more than just belief in Spain’s abilities. “This is a slightly more emotional experience for me than usual because this is probably my last World Cup, and I’m even allowing myself to dream about lifting the trophy,” he revealed, before signing off with a smile, saying: “It means an awful lot to me, and I’m going to give it my very best shot.”