To say the history of the Brazilian beach soccer team is synonymous with that of the sport would be something of an understatement. The game sprung up on the sands of Copacabana and had as its early exponents and ambassadors many former Brazilian football stars like Zico, Junior and Edinho. After winning nine of the ten editions of the now defunct Beach Soccer World Championship, Brazil hosted the first three editions of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, somewhat surprisingly losing the first one in 2005. After that, however, A Seleção would win four consecutive world titles between 2006 and 2009, before losing out to a well organised Russian side at the last edition in Ravenna, Italy, in 2011.
Accustomed to going back to the drawing board any time the national team fails to win a title, Brazil began a process of renewal in the aftermath of the defeat to Russia in the 2011 final. The process started to really take shape in early 2013 when Junior Negao, one of team’s all-time greats, was appointed coach. The new incumbent opted to recall veteran players like Jorginho, Daniel and Bueno to team up with striker Andre, while at the same time gradually giving opportunities to youngsters like Bokinha and Datinha.
The changes appeared to pay dividends when Negao led his charges to victory in his first nine games at the helm, but there was a scare soon to follow. In the semi-finals of the CONMEBOL qualifying event for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013, Brazil unexpectedly lost out on penalties to Paraguay, setting alarm bells ringing and ramping up the pressure for their third-place play-off against Ecuador. Bruno Xavier, who had missed the decisive spot-kick against the Paraguayans, redeemed himself in the play-off with five goals, helping A Canarinho to an 11-5 victory and the final berth to Tahiti. For the time being, though, some concerns persist. Although the team remain in transition, Brazil will continue to be among the most-fancied sides at this year’s showpiece event, albeit not the outright favourites of previous years.