When it comes to Portugal and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, there are some things that never change. Ever-presents at the global finals since the event came under the FIFA banner in 2005, the Portuguese have racked up several big wins, invariably faced off against Brazil and are usually indebted to a hatful of goals from the free-scoring Madjer. And in all five of their previous appearances at the competition, coach Jose Miguel Mateus has been masterminding events from the dugout.
Ze Miguel, as he is more commonly known in his homeland, will be back at Ravenna/Italy 2011 for his sixth straight finals, a record no other coach can match. In that time the Portuguese tactician has racked up 27 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup games, three more than his closest challenger, Brazil boss Alexandre Soares, the brains behind A Seleção’s triumphs at the last four competitions.
“We have a very strong relationship with Ze because he was the team’s goalkeeper before he took over as coach,” said the admiring Madjer, the leading scorer in the history of the competition. “He’s been a calm, reassuring presence ever since then, and just having him in the dugout is a big help for us. We go back a long way and we have a great friendship.”
Ze Miguel himself said: “I’m delighted to have reached my sixth World Cup finals and to be the record holder. And what’s made it even more special is that I’ve been able to witness for myself the spectacular strides beach soccer has taken in that time.”
Surprisingly for someone of his vast experience, Ze Miguel has reached the final only once during his long tenure, at the inaugural competition in 2005, when France edged Portugal on penalties.
Boosted by a victory over Brazil at the Mundialito in Portimao in August, the Lusitanians kick off their campaign tomorrow night against El Salvador, the same opponents they faced in their group opener at Marseille 2008, a game they won 8-2.
“Things have changed a lot,” said Ze Miguel, sounding a note of caution. “In the build-up to the tournament I made a detailed analysis of our opponents and I can tell you that our group (which also contains Argentina and Oman) is very evenly balanced.
"I hope we can get through to the next round and fight for the title. As far as I’m concerned, winning here in Ravenna on 11 September would set the seal on that World Cup appearances record.”