Shortly after scoring Brazil’s decisive third goal against Argentina in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012, the emotion was simply too much for Falcao. “Today’s among the two or three happiest moments of my career,” the Auriverde icon told FIFA.com after the 3-2 win over La Albiceleste. “After everything I’ve been through, it was really special and I couldn’t hold back the tears.”
The Brazilian futsal superstar certainly had plenty of reasons to let his feelings show. Prior to the tournament, all eyes were on A Seleção’s veteran No12 ahead of his fourth and final FIFA Futsal World Cup, only for the 35-year-old wide-man to be forced off the field just three minutes into his side’s opener against Japan due to a calf injury. It was an injury that, for a few dramatic hours at least, threatened to end his Thai swansong almost before it had begun.
That sombre outlook swiftly grew lighter the following day. Medical tests proved the injury was much less serious than first imagined, with Falcao predicted to be available for selection once more by the competition’s semi-final stage, should the holders get that far. Yet the evergreen goal-getter was back even sooner than that, returning in time to feature – and find the net – in the Round of 16 win over Panama.
All seemed to be in place for the continental clásico against arch-rivals Argentina, only for an inflamed nerve to trigger the onset of facial paralysis. Fortunately for Brazil, Falcao had no intention of letting the discomfort prevent his involvement at the Indoor Stadium Huamark in Bangkok, with the wide player’s fine double key to sending the world champions through to the last four.
The context in which Falcao struck his two goals can only add to his legend within the sport of futsal and beyond. Having gone behind for the first time at Thailand 2012, Brazil were trailing 2-0 at the interval. “I’m not surprised we had a game like that against Argentina,” said the man of the moment on the hard-fought success. “There are no favourites when we play them. So to beat them like that in a World Cup makes this a really special victory.”
Falcao popped up to make it 2-2 just two minutes after team-mate Neto had reduced the deficit to 2-1, then fired his side’s third in the opening period of extra-time – both goals coming from sweet left-foot strikes. “This win should give us a boost for what’s coming ahead,” continued the winner of the adidas Golden Boot at Chinese Taipei 2004 and Brasil 2008. “Everybody knows we’re contenders and everybody expects us to reach the final, but nothing’s easy at this level. That’s why I say that the confidence we get from today will help us reach the final.”
When quizzed whether there were any negatives to be drawn from the performance against Argentina, Falcao was emphatic in his response. “None at all,” he said. “At a World Cup you’re going to find yourself in all kinds of situations, so it’s normal we’d go behind at some point. But, if you want to be the champions you have to learn to handle all those situations. As well as strong character, this side showed significant attacking power. That’s what we should focus on.”
Barring A Seleção’s path to a sixth final in seven editions of the FIFA Futsal World Cup are tournament surprise packages Colombia, who were defeated 5-1 by Brazil in the play-off for third place in April’s CONMEBOL qualifying competition. “To be honest, I thought we’d be facing Ukraine, but Colombia have done enough to deserve to be in the semis,” said Falcao. “They’ve got quite an open style of play, though they have defended well here. We’ll be analysing video footage of them, but we should really put our faith in our own ability.”
As the conversation draws to a close, and with tiredness clearly showing in Falcao’s face, his features still light up when he recalls the rousing ovations he received from the supporters in Bangkok. “I’ve got a responsibility not just to futsal but to sport as a whole,” he concluded. “I play for myself, but I put my team and the fans before anything else. I always do everything I can to make everyone happy. But today I needed a special day, and that’s what I got. For that I’m thankful.”