Though Argentina came away empty-handed from Monday’s meeting with Italy in Group D of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012, it was a setback that nevertheless confirmed La Albiceleste can more than hold their own against the world’s most feared teams.
Still second in the section, Argentina’s performance against the Italians means they are favourites to beat Australia in their third and final pool game. Should they do so, they will move into the last 16. One man who is taking nothing for granted, however, is their wing man Matias Lucuix, the only member of the Argentinian squad who plays in the ultra-competitive Spanish league.
“I don’t like all this talk about being favourites that much,” the Inter Movistar player told FIFA.com. “Logic suggests we ought to win but if we don’t go and back that up on the court, it won’t really count for much, will it?”
While he was happy with Argentina’s overall performance against the Italians, Lucuix believes there are some areas where they need to sharpen their game: “We took the match to them and brought their keeper into things, which is something you can always take with you. It has to be said we let them come on to us in the first half, though two of their three goals owed a lot to luck. All that means, though, is that they took their chances and we didn’t.”
We’re still behind Brazil, Spain and Russia even, but we’re right in there in the chasing pack with Italy and Iran.
As he went on to explain, there is no chance of the South Americans underestimating Australia. “They’re well organised and very physical and they matched the Italians for 15 minutes. The key will be to find space without forgetting our own strengths, which is to keep it tight at the back and take risks when the time is right.”
Lucuix’s ability to read the game should come as no surprise. It was that attribute, among many others, that allowed him to make the move from Argentinian to Spanish futsal in 2006, when he was only 21. Prior to that he had played for Tigre with his friends before joining his beloved River Plate for a seven-year stint. In all that time, however, he never tried his hand at the 11-a-side game.
Explaining the reasons why, he said: “By the age a lot of people give it a go, I was already travelling with Argentina’s futsal team and one thing just led to another from there. When the opportunity to go to Spain came up, I made the decision to go straightaway. It was my chance to go and do what I enjoyed most.”
An admirer of Brazil’s Vinicius and Torras of Spain, Lucuix is now appearing in his second world finals, just a few days short of his 27th birthday. His first FIFA Futsal World Cup came four years ago in Brazil: “You don’t forget your first one, but I’m enjoying this one in a different way. This time around we’re still behind Brazil, Spain and Russia even, but we’re right in there in the chasing pack with Italy and Iran. We’ve got different expectations here.”
Always keen to deflect praise for his own performances, Ducuix prefers to focus instead on what the team can achieve: “We’re growing as a unit and if we don’t make the last eight I think it would be a step back for us. If we can make the semi-finals, though, then we can say it’s mission accomplished. We’ve definitely got a chance too because I think we can beat anyone in a straight fight.”