Italian international Saad Assis is the prototypical futsal player. Born and raised in Brazil, he measures 1.68 metres, weighs 68 kilos and honed his skills on the streets of Sao Paulo before going on to play at the highest level in his homeland as well as in Italy and Spain.
Assis is now one of the most successful players in the world. He plies his trade with Barcelona in Spain's top futsal league and helped the Squadra Azzurra to third place at the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008 and the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012. And in Thailand, the 33-year-old will be hoping to help Italy go even further.
"We all dream of winning the tournament, but obviously so do some of the other players taking part," he said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "It won't be easy since Brazil, Spain and Russia in particular are incredibly strong. We'll give it our all but it'll be tough."
Before they can think about a semi-final clash against European champions Spain or EURO runners-up Russia, Assis and co will have to face Egypt in the last 16 after the Africans made it through as one of the four best third-placed teams in the group stages. The Italians will certainly not be taking the next match for granted.
"We don't know all that much about Egypt, but I think we'll be looking at some video analysis of them over the next couple of days," said the experienced striker, who added three strikes to his career tally during the three group matches in Thailand. "They must be a decent team, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to win so easily against a Czech Republic team which knocked us out of the tournament two years ago at the EURO. We're confident that we will reach the quarter-finals, but at the same time we know that we will have to play our best futsal if we are to win our next match on Monday."
"I'm just doing my job and helping the team. I'm a striker so I obviously like scoring goals, but at the end of the day it's team success that counts," he said modestly when asked about his past achievements.
Things have been going well so far for Assis and his team-mates, who cruised through Group D with wins against Australia (9-1), Argentina (3-2) and Mexico (5-2). Coach Roberto Menichelli's men thus picked up a maximum nine-point haul, and though the knock-out stages will obviously see a step-up in quality, Assis is confident they will make it right through to the end of the tournament.
"We have a completely different team compared with 2008. The squad is a lot younger than the back then, but we still have some very good players. As a group, we're definitely in a position to hold our own with the best futsal nations at this World Cup."
Not that merely holding their own will be enough to fill Assis's lofty expectations. "I only ever have one objective, and that's winning the next match," he concludes. "It's my job, it's why I play for the Italian national team and at club level for Barcelona."