Experience is one of the most vital qualities in any team and, when the pressure is on, coaches will always turn to their veteran players to see them through. This is the situation Libya’s coach Pablo Prieto finds himself in as he prepares to lead his charges into the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012.
With most of his players making their debut on the world stage, Prieto has little choice but to rely on the two most experienced members of his squad, Mohamed Rahoma and Rabia Abdel. The duo are the only two players who appeared in the last edition of the tournament four years ago in Brazil, and Prieto will be hoping they can steer Libya through one of the toughest groups out there, featuring title-holders Brazil, the always formidable Portugal and Asian champions Japan.
Rahoma and Abdel are certainly shouldering a lot of responsibility. Not only are the rest of their team-mates FIFA Futsal World Cup debutants, some have only played a handful of matches at international level.
Speaking to FIFA.com about the scale of the task ahead of him, Abdel said: “We take the World Cup very seriously and there’s going to be a lot of fear, especially for the new players. I hope they can get over it because our group is no walk in the park, with three very strong teams. They have to take to the pitch with enormous self-confidence as this will help them overcome any anxiety.”
Rahoma, who shares a room with Abdel in their hotel, seconds his team-mate’s words: “I’ve played with Rabia for more than six years and this will be our second World Cup. We’ll try to offer a little extra to the team and give our team-mates all the help they need."
Friends of the field as well as comrades on it, the two men have an obvious rapport. They have played together for UAE club Al Wasl in the past and Rahoma, 11 months the older of the pair, hopes they can make their bond pay dividends when they face up to Portugal this Thursday in Nakhon Ratchasima.
“We have different roles on the pitch,” the 28-year-old explained: “Rabia plays in attack and I’m a defender, but we can help the team score goals even from the back. Our group is tough with three strong opponents, but I hope we can put on a solid performance against Portugal and Japan, and acquit ourselves well against champions Brazil.”
Rabia Abdel echoed that sentiment, saying: “There are no easy games in the World Cup, they’re all tough. Brazil are a very strong side as everyone knows, so our first game against Portugal is extremely important. A good result will give us momentum to take into our next two games.”
Abdel has played the world champions once before, in 2010, when he scored his country’s only goal in a 2-1 defeat to the South Americans. He is justifiably proud of “netting against Brazil” and hopes, “to score against them again, and against Portugal and Japan, too”.
Scoring is Abdel’s job after all, while Rahoma is responsible for providing solidity at the back. But perhaps their most important duty in Thailand will be providing leadership to their young team-mates as they prepare for the toughest test of all.