It was ten years ago today that Portugal lost out to France in the final of the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, held on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
On the losing side that day was Madjer, one of the greatest players to grace the sport. The winner of two adidas Golden Balls, three adidas Golden Shoes and an adidas Silver Shoe in his decade at the top, the Portuguese legend has nevertheless yet to win the most coveted piece of silverware of all, an ongoing quest that he discussed in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
His next opportunity to do so will come on home sand this July, when Portugal hosts the 2015 world finals, an occasion on which Madjer hopes their fans can cheer them to victory and help erase memories of past disappointments.
Casting his mind back to the biggest disappointment of them all, he said: “The 2005 competition was a mix of emotions. It was the first ever FIFA World Cup and we achieved something that seemed near impossible: beating Brazil in the semis on the Copacabana.
“Everyone thought Portugal would go on to defeat France in the final, but we lost on penalties. It was a massive setback, though we did have the consolation of winning a few individual awards, which I won thanks to the efforts of the whole team. They made up a little bit for losing the final.”
Continuing to reflect on that inaugural tournament, the free-scoring forward said: “We had a fantastic World Cup in 2005. The coach read every game to perfection, including the match against France, and obviously it was a real honour for me to come away as the best player and the leading goalscorer in the competition.”
“Even so, I’d swap all my individual awards for the World Cup trophy, no doubt about it,” said Madjer, giving voice to the fire that still burns within.
If the Portuguese are going to break their World Cup duck, they will have to get past Japan, Argentina and Senegal in the group phase. While acknowledging that their first-round opponents command great respect, the Portugal captain believes the hosts have every reason to dream.
“It’s a very strong group, featuring teams we know very well,” he said. “We’ve beaten Argentina the last three times we’ve met them, though, scoring 13 goals and conceding none, while Senegal are very strong physically but are not so good on a technical level.”
Contemplating the challenge posed by Japan, Portugal’s opponents in their opening game on the first day of the tournament, Madjer said: “We played Japan at the 2014 Mini World Cup in Espinho. Their coach is Marcelo Mendes, who’s been in the charge of the Portugal team, and they’ve come on a lot. We need to be very careful because everyone’s working hard to win titles.”
Eyes on the prize
“It goes without saying that we want to reach the second round and that our main objective is to win the world title,” added the Portuguese idol. “We know that we’ve got a pretty strong side, and we’ll be even stronger at home. That said, we have to be careful because it could be a double-edged sword. We need to be focused and play as a team.”
Discussing the role that the home fans will play in July, he said: “We’re going to get the same support we’ve always had in Portugal. The fans are our 11th player and there’s no doubt they’re going to give us a huge boost. The sport’s getting more and more popular with the fans and people are sitting up and taking notice of it. All we have to do is repay that by having success on the sand.”
Though a veteran of many a World Cup battle, the hugely experienced Madjer admitted to feeling nervous as the tournament nears. “The nerves are there, which is what you expect when you play at home,” he explained. “We’re very proud to have the FIFA World Cup here. When we found out it was going to be held in Portugal, we were all very excited.”
World Cup fever is mounting in the host city of Espinho, prompting Madjer to add: “It was a great choice. The Mini World Cup was a fantastic experience here, and the support we had from the fans was brilliant, with hundreds of people locked out at our games because the stadium wasn’t big enough to fit everyone in.
“I hope that doesn’t happen this time, and I hope the passion for beach soccer keeps burning bright.”