On the eve of the eagerly anticipated second edition of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, some of the game's most influential figures joined forces to host a press conference in the convivial Brazilian city.
With the big kick-off just hours away, a whole range of subjects were discussed, from the wave of expectation already generated by the tournament to the way that the sport is continuing to grow and evolve. Read on as FIFA.com brings you the main extracts.
Ricardo Teixeira, President of FIFA's Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee; President of the Organising Committee for Futsal and Beach Soccer World Cups; President of the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF).
With regard to changes to the format of the tournament:
This is the second time Brazil has hosted this competition under the FIFA banner. We have several positive changes to report, such as the inclusion of 16 national teams who have earned their right to take part having safely negotiated qualifying ties played across the various football federations and under FIFA regulations. Special mention should be made of the Solomon Islands, who have made history by reaching the final phase of a FIFA competition for the very first time. In addition, all the games will be broadcast live on TV to more than 150 countries, and, of course, the competition will be played using the new, revised set of rules.
Regarding the decision to also host the 2007 edition of the tournament in Brazil:
That is a decision that the Committee took some time ago, and is down to Brazil's vast experience of organising these kind of events. To a certain extent, comparisons can be drawn with the FIFA Club World Cup, which the governing body has decided to stage in just one country, at least for the time being.
On the possibility of beach soccer gaining Olympic status:
We're always looking at ways to aid the sport's continued growth. The way that women's football first got off the ground, before eventually going on to be included in the Olympic Games, is what we're trying to achieve with futsal. Beach soccer is clearly enjoying significant growth and FIFA will do everything in its power to ensure it continues to develop. Its time will come.
Regarding the numbers of spectators set to attend games:
That's not going to be a problem. In Brazil, and especially in Rio de Janeiro, it's quite normal for a game to get going with just five players, some sand and a ball. With a stadium like this, and the calibre of players on display, we can be sure of attracting fans to every game.
Luis Felipe Tavares, Executive Member of FIFA Beach Soccer SL, responsible for organising the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
On the way beach soccer has evolved over the years:
I've been involved with this sport since 1994, when we organised the first-ever Mundialito (mini World Cup). We first got in touch with FIFA in 1998, and in 2005 we held the first jointly organised tournament. Thanks to their support we've been able to help beach soccer reach every corner of the planet, something which makes us extremely proud.
Joan Cusco, Executive Member of FIFA Beach Soccer SL, responsible for organising the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
On the level of expectation surrounding Bahrain, Iran and the Solomon Islands:
I feel that, on paper, Bahrain have the best chance of the three (of making progress). They were excellent in qualifying and overcame a top-class team in the shape of Japan. They're very well prepared and are technically very gifted. The Solomon Islands are something of an unknown quantity given that they are yet to face teams of any real quality. Iran are a strong and resolute side, who played well in qualifying and eliminated China. China have a very good team and I'm sure we'll be seeing them around here soon.
Eric Cantona, coach of defending champions France.
On his favourites for the trophy:
Brazil are undoubtedly the best team in the world, although we took a big step forward when we won the title last year. This season we've been unable to reproduce the same kind of form, although seeing as this is the World Cup I'm sure we'll perform to 100 per cent of our ability. Beach soccer has improved a great deal and that is reflected in the quality of all the teams involved. This competition will be even tougher than in 2005.
His verdict on the differences between 11-a-side football and beach soccer:
They are both wonderful games, although there are clearly differences between the two. A good football player does not necessarily make a great beach soccer player. This is mainly due to the technical differences between the two sports: in beach soccer the ball spends a lot of time in the air and, of course, there are fewer players in each team. In last year's final the scoreline changed twice in the last minute of the match. That's something you rarely see in 11-a-side football. Both games are exciting but, as I said before, they have their own distinct appeal.
Alexandre Soares, Brazil coach
Concerning the pressure on Brazil following last year's third-place finish:
We're working very hard to ensure things go as well as they possibly can and, at the same time, we're extremely proud to be representing Brazil. We'll do whatever it takes to win the title, although we're fully aware that the situation is not the same as it once was: all the teams taking part have improved a great deal, and it's getting more and more difficult to lift the trophy.
With regard to those experienced players that failed to make the final squad list:
It's true that there are a number of new faces in the squad, but this is simply down to the fact that they have adapted better to our chosen working methods. I believe that the players we have under our command at the present time are those most suited to taking part in the World Cup. While skill continues to play a decisive role in this sport, tactical considerations must not be overlooked. Nowadays, national teams plan everything down to the very smallest detail and no stone can be left unturned.
Joaquin Alonso, Spain coach.
On his hopes for the competition:
It goes without saying that whenever you're involved in a tournament like this, you set your sights on going all the way. We're sure to face some top-class opponents, who will be growing in stature by the day and will make life increasingly difficult for us. France and ourselves could possibly be considered as favourites to reach the quarter-finals, but we cannot afford to let our guard down. Our aim is to qualify in as high a position as possible in order to avoid a clash with Brazil, who are the overwhelming favourites.