Borja, Spain’s Italian connection
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When Marca Futsal report back for training after this FIFA Futsal World Cup, one player may find that he has become suddenly unpopular. He is, after all, the sole Spaniard on the books of this Italian club, and Friday’s semi-final could well end with him having helped to eliminate his adopted country.

Borja, however, can live with unpopularity. The scenario that gives the Spain No10 nightmares, as he told FIFA.com, is the thought of being the butt of an entire dressing room’s jokes.

“If we win, I can definitely live with the consequences,” he said, laughing. “A much worst thing for me would be the opposite situation. Can you imagine the response I will receive if Italy win? I don’t even want to think about it! I know it will all be in the right spirit whoever wins, but I hope I am the one smiling when we meet again.”

Among those praying otherwise will be Marco Ercolessi, a team-mate at Treviso-based Marca, and a player against whom Borja will find himself in direct opposition. Not that he will be treating his friend any differently to the other Italian players before or during the match, with pre-match contact definitely off the menu.

“Marco’s a very good friend of mine,” said the Spain star, who will celebrate his 28th birthday on the day of the match. “But tomorrow he’s going to be a rival just like the rest of them. For that reason, I definitely won’t be calling or texting him before the match. The friendship is suspended for now.”

The gap between the ‘big’ teams and the rest is getting smaller and smaller, and that can only be good for the sport.
Borja

As one of only two players in the Spain squad who play their football overseas, Borja is something of an exception to the established rule. Yet although moving abroad last year was not a decision arrived at lightly, he harbours no regrets – and believes his Italian experience should be of benefit when he lines up against Gli Azzurri.

“I’m really enjoying it in Italy,” he said. “It’s obviously a change to move away from home, but the league itself is similar to Spain and, if anything, probably a little faster in terms of the tempo. I also think it should be an advantage for me, knowing the qualities and style of play of the Italian players as well as I do. I know they will give us a tough match. But we’re feeling good about ourselves and have no reason to fear anyone.”

Spain’s belief in their own ability and mental strength will only have been fortified by a hard-fought 3-2 win over a formidable Russia side. Now another all-European tie awaits, this time against a team that, while not possessing the Russians’ physical prowess, have more than enough technical ability to trouble their old adversaries.

Italy have very different characteristics to Russia and play a different kind of football, but I expect the game to be just as difficult,” said Borja. “And one thing’s for sure: we’re going to have to work a lot, and sweat a lot, if we’re going to win.

“Right now, we’re just happy and relieved to be through. Russia are such a strong team and we always knew that it was going to be a very tough, very physical match. We have faced each other many times and I think you could see that we know and respect each other a lot. Faced with a team like Russia, you just want to do enough to get through. Thankfully, we showed that we have the mentality to achieve our goal.”

No prizes for guessing what that goal is. For a team that lost out on the trophy by the slimmest of margins in 2008, edged out on penalties by hosts Brazil, only the trophy itself will be enough. Nonetheless, Borja - a veteran of that 2008 campaign – believes the challenge of topping the podium has become tougher than ever.

He explained: “I’ve noticed that this World Cup has been a lot more difficult than the last one, for everyone. The gap between the ‘big’ teams and the rest is getting smaller and smaller, and that can only be good for the sport. For us though, it’s making things an awful lot tougher.”

Almost as tough, in fact, as Borja’s life in Treviso will be should Spain lose.