At the first FIFA Futsal World Cup, hosted by the Netherlands in 1989, Brazil took the title and laid down their marker as a futsal powerhouse. Since then they have established a reputation as the best futsal country in the world, not least through triumphs at three further tournaments.
Following their success on home soil four years ago, the South Americans are now out to make their mark in Thailand, where the seventh edition of the competition will be played from 1 to 18 November. Yet in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Brazil coach Marcos Sorato showed unusual caution and was keen to dampen the expectations on his side.
“Back then [at the 2008 finals] it was a different situation with a different team. The games against Russia in the semi-final and Spain in the final were very difficult,” said Sorato. “We need to take things step by step in Thailand, as we know we’re favourites for the title along with five other countries. It’ll come down to what happens during each game, it’s not about history or words.”
Whereas at Brazil 2008 only the hosts and Spain were considered title contenders, Sorato believes that the competition will be far greater among the 24 participating teams in Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima.
Spain have superb coaches and fantastic players, so are certainly among the best teams in the world. They’re one of the top favourites along with Russia, but we can’t forget about Iran, Italy, Argentina and Paraguay. Portugal are another side we shouldn’t underestimate,” said Sorato.
In Group C, A Seleção will face a Portuguese side whose greatest success to date was at the 2000 tournament, where they beat Russia in the third-place play-off after losing to Brazil in the semi-finals. Libya and AFC Champions Japan are the other first round opponents.
“It’s the most even group in the whole tournament. Compared to the others, Libya are the weakest team but we only managed to beat them 2-1 in 2010,” said Sorato. “Japan are Asian champions and have a great coach in Miguel Rodrigo, while Portugal aren’t just strong, they’re potential title contenders.”
The new-found modesty in the Brazil camp is more than just lip service. At the qualifying tournament on home soil, Sorato’s team finished a sobering third after losing to Paraguay in the last four.
“Given the high expectations in Brazil, of course there was huge disappointment with our performance,” the veteran tactician continued. “But Paraguay have a terrific coach in Fernando Ferretti and they have quality players.”
Despite their experience en route to qualifying and the reserve shown by their coach, the South Americans remain among the favourites to be crowned world champions. Putting caution to one side, Sorato insists there is a logical explanation as to why: “Brazil is one of the best countries at training players, if not the best. And not just in futsal, but in football too.”
While clearly aware of their own strengths, Brazil have a new perspective on their opponents’ abilities too - a combination that could well lead them to a fifth world title.