Brazil’s burden of brilliance
© Foto-net

Take a look at the results of Brazil's all-conquering beach soccer side over the last few years and you might think that coach Alexandre Soares has one of the easiest jobs in sport. Appointed to the post in September 2005, the 43-year-old presided over an incredible run of 75 consecutive wins, guiding A Seleção to three straight world titles in the process.

Yet when it is put to him that a team as successful as Brazil requires only a little fine-tuning, Soares is quick to point out that the opposite is true.

"Brazil always tries to stay ahead of the rest and set the standards," said Soares, citing the expectations they will be expected to match once more at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009. "Whenever other teams play us they copy what we do. There's no side in the world that gets studied and analysed more than we do, and in the last few years we have stuck faithfully to a very specific way of playing the game. But now we have to change things a little bit, and work on some tactical, technical and fitness aspects. Given our position we can't afford to take it easy."

To help him carry out these changes and innovations, Soares can count on the support of a technical committee with a brief that is more wide-ranging than ever. And worryingly for their opponents at Dubai 2009, in mid-October he brought a 16-man squad together for an unprecedented 28-day training camp in the city of Arraial do Cabo, 158 kilometres from Rio de Janeiro.

His task over the next few days is to whittle that squad down to the 12 men that will attempt to land the country's fourth world crown on Jumeirah Beach next month. "One thing is for sure," says Soares, weighing up his immediate duties. "The core of the team will be the same as the one that won the World Cup in Marseille in 2008. The only changes we'll be making will be tactical ones."

With the likes of Benjamin, the winner of the adidas Silver Ball in 2008, to choose from, not to mention the fearless Buru, who picked up the adidas Golden Ball and the adidas Golden Shoe a year later, the coach is certainly blessed with an embarrassment of riches.

Now we have to change things a little bit, and work on some tactical, technical and fitness aspects. Given our position we can't afford to take it easy. 
Alexandre Soares, Brazil coach.

The Seleção supremo has suffered so few defeats during his tenure that they are easy to remember. The most recent ones came in identical circumstances, in the last two Mundialito finals against tournament hosts Portugal in Portimao. After losing 5-4 in 2008, the silky South Americans went down 6-4 to Madjer, Alan, Belchior and Co in August this year, which begs the question: does their recent success over his side make the Portuguese favourites to depose Soares's men?

"I don't think it's fair to just talk about Portugal and not mention any of the other European sides," he replies. "The level in Europe is improving all the time and there's no better example of that than Russia, who have become a major power in the space of just a few years. They're the continental champions and deserve a lot of respect, as do Spain."

"You also have to take into consideration the fact that we played a different team in each of the finals we've won: Uruguay, Mexico and then Italy," continues the man who has guided Brazil to 18 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup wins in a row. "Beach soccer is developing fast and that means there are always going to be surprises. Nigeria, for example, have shown a lot of quality in previous competitions and have the potential to go far."

After winning the title twice on his home sand of Copacabana and adding a third in the south of France, Soares is expecting an altogether different atmosphere in Dubai.

"The sport has been dominated by European and South American teams up to now and so I think it's very positive and interesting that the World Cup is being held on a different continent," he says, before concluding with an ominous warning for their would-be successors.

"All the same, we know we'll be the favourites and we're ready for that. The players have got used to the responsibility that comes with that and rather than putting pressure us, being favourites only adds to our motivation."