“I should probably pinch myself to see if this is all real,” said a beaming Angellott Caro as he emerged from the bowels of the Huamark Indoor Stadium. Caro’s Colombia had just pulled off yet another surprise victory at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012, knocking out a formidable Ukraine side to set up a semi-final encounter with holders Brazil. “Actually, I’d better not: if this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up!”
“What’s going on?” the skilful Colombian added jokingly in an interview with FIFA.com. “We came to Thailand with the aim of getting past the first round, and nothing more. If someone had told me before the World Cup that we would end up among the four best teams in the world, I would have told them they were completely mad. Now we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Change of approach
Caro can perhaps be seen as the embodiment of Colombia’s transformation over the course of the tournament. Indeed, he, along with the rest of the team, has had to curb his natural attacking instincts in favour of tightening up in defence.
“It’s true, I always like going forward,” said Caro, who has three goals to his name so far at Thailand 2012. “But we played like that against Guatemala, and it cost us five goals. After that match, we realised that we first need to keep the ball out of our own net and then look to attack. The technical staff deserve great credit, as they were the ones who convinced us that this is the right approach.”
They may let us play a bit more than the other teams we’ve faced but, with the quality they have, the slightest lapse in concentration can cost you a goal.
Colombia’s other main attribute, as Caro explained, has been their strength of character. “We Colombians have a tendency to be complacent, but that has not been the case for us here. After we knocked out Iran, we told ourselves that we were making history, but that we still hadn’t won anything. So we didn’t switch off and we played with complete concentration against Ukraine.”
During the interview, Brazil coach Marcos Sorato passed by and shared a warm embrace with Caro – a gesture that allowed us to delve a little deeper into the player’s background. “We’ve known each other since 2009, when, after the Bolivarian Games that year, I was called up by Argentinian coach Fernando Larranaga to be part of a Rest of the World side for a series of friendlies against Brazil,” Caro explained. “After that I moved to the Czech Republic, then Spain, and then to Venezuela, my current location, where I won the championship a short time ago.”
Caro’s national team coach, Areny Fonnegra, added: “He’s technically gifted, but he has a strong character that can sometimes work against him. He didn’t have a good start to the tournament and came in for some criticism, but he’s managed to change and now we’re all praising him. Once he’s finished maturing and understands all the things he can bring to the group, he’ll transform us into an even better team.”
Sights set on Brazil
Setting the inaugural edition of the competition aside, Colombia are just the fourth debutants to reach the semi-finals of a FIFA Futsal World Cup – an achievement they share with Iran, Ukraine and Portugal, who appeared in the last four of Hong Kong 1992, Spain 1996 and Guatemala 2000 respectively. None of those sides, however, made it all the way to the final.
“As I told you before, all of this is a bonus for us,” Caro said. “So we’re playing with freedom, having fun and enjoying ourselves. There’s a great deal of responsibility and effort involved too, but we’re enjoying it.”
Colombia’s next opponents are defending champions Brazil, who underlined their title credentials by coming from 2-0 down to beat Argentina in the quarter-finals. “We know them well,” Caro said. “They beat us comfortably (5-1) the last time we met, but we’re a different team now. They may let us play a bit more than the other teams we’ve faced but, with the quality they have, the slightest lapse in concentration can cost you a goal.”
Caro, for his part, is not at all overawed by his stellar semi-final opponents, and finished the interview on a note of optimism. “None of us here are scared,” he concluded. “Respectful, yes, because we know who they are and where they play. But that’s as far as it goes. If we didn't have faith in ourselves, we wouldn’t be here now. We have to dream!”