Brazil’s FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 semi-final is not a game A Seleção’s Gabriel will forget in a hurry. He scored twice in the 3-1 victory over Colombia and ‘assisted’ the other - an own goal by Jhonathan Toro - with a ferocious shot.
The triumph sparked timely celebrations for Gabriel, who turns 32 today. “Today’s win, along with reaching the final and scoring, was something of an early birthday present for me,” he told FIFA.com after the final whistle.
Sunday’s final is a repeat of the showpiece match for years ago and it is an encounter with extra significance for Gabriel, who has been plying his trade in Spain since 2004. Friends will become foes for him and compatriots Ari and Wilde, as six members of the Spanish national side are their club colleagues at Barcelona.
“We know each other very well as we play together in Spain, but that won’t actually benefit either side much," said Gabriel. "Spain have some fantastic players and I’m expecting it to be a nervy game. We’ll need to be fully focused as even a small mistake could cost us the title."
He is a man who knows what he is talking about. In addition to winning numerous titles at club level, he was part of Brazil’s triumphant FIFA Futsal World Cup campaign on home soil four years ago. Nevertheless, Gabriel believes the penalty shootout victory that gave Brazil a fourth world crown will be of little importance come kick-off.
I’m expecting it to be a nervy game. We’ll need to be fully focused as even a small mistake could cost us the title.
“Games against Spain are always tough. The final will be a classic. They have a great team and defend very well. Little details could be the decisive factors. We need to get to grips with our opponent and come up with a good strategy against their strong defence in order to come out on top again on Sunday.”
While it remains to be seen whether Gabriel will be his country’s matchwinner once more, his keen eye for goal - he has scored three so far in Thailand - is one of the qualities that make him such a key player for Brazil. Yet the semi-final hero insists personal glory comes low down on his list of priorities.
“It doesn’t matter who scores the goals. It was me in the last four, but in the final it could well be someone else. I don’t usually score many goals in a single game because I see myself more as a provider for others,” said Gabriel modestly. “Anyway, the most important thing is that the team wins, irrespective of who scores.”
There was no sign of reserve, however, when asked what becoming a world champion for a second time would mean to him. “Of course it would be incredible if we win again,” he grinned. “It could be my second World Cup title, but it would be the first time for some of the players in our squad. That’s why we’re all going to give everything to be celebrating at the end. We hope we can control the game and that we can stay focused over the entire course of the match.”
Colombia’s players can testify to the fact that Gabriel does not err often. If he did, he would not be a step away from a second world title as an integral member of the defending champions’ team, nor would he play for the best club in Spain. As role models for success go, the newcomers in Brazil’s squad could hardly wish for a better lead to follow.