There can be no question that Brazil is the home of beach soccer. In the eyes of its people, the game is more a way of life than a sport and is as much a facet of the national culture as carnivals and samba. It is perhaps for that reason that the Auriverde have been such a dominant force in the sport since its beginnings, winning nine of the ten world championships held before FIFA took over the organisation of the competition.
It was entirely logical then that Rio's world-famous Copacabana beach should be selected as the venue for the first ever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005. What no one could possibly have predicted, however, was that Portugal would knock the flamboyant hosts out in the semi-finals, leaving Brazil to claim a hugely deflating third place.
The Seleção made up for that disappointment in style the following year, storming to victory at the tournament's second staging. And just months away from the 2007 edition, to be hosted on home sand yet again, Brazil are red-hot favourites to retain the crown they won in such thrilling fashion last November.
With the core of the team that has served them so well in recent years still intact, the Brazilians have just landed the Mini World Cup for the tenth time, taking their winning streak to an incredible 51 games in the process. The last time they failed to win was that semi-final defeat on penalties to the Portuguese, with their last reverse in normal time coming in a 4-0 loss to Uruguay in Peru way back in February 2005.
The honour of becoming the first man to coach Brazil to glory at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup fell to Alexandre Soares. Born in Rio de Janeiro on 11 May 1966, Soares was a leading futsal player, turning out for Fluminense and AABB (RJ) before heading to Spain, where he played for eight years.
He took his first steps in beach soccer as assistant coach with the Carioca state team in 2002, taking over the running of the side in 2003. He joined the national coaching set-up the same year, succeeding Jorge Ferreira Alves as caretaker coach in the wake of the 2005 disaster. After guiding the Auriverde to success at the Mini World Cup last August he was confirmed in the post, immediately repaying his employers' faith by steering Brazil to their first world title and maintaining very high standards ever since.
Perhaps the brightest of the Brazilian constellation of beach soccer stars is striker Benjamin Pereira da Silva, better known as Benjamin. Despite a somewhat slender frame, his range of tricks and nose for goal make him a lethal proposition for any defence. The current team's top scorer with over 200 goals, he lies second behind Nenem in the all-time goalscoring charts and is poised to overtake the Brazilian legend some time soon.
That said, there is more to Brazil than their goal machine. Now into his forties, the veteran Junior Negao remains a cornerstone of the defence along with the equally capable Buru, and up front the 27-year-old Bruno has fulfilled his rich promise.
* Brazil were crowned champions at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2006.
* In 2005 Brazil took third place on the podium in the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, also held in Rio.
What they said ...
"All the results we are putting together are important but we are just working towards our main objective of retaining the world title. We can't afford to slip up in front of our fans. We hope to do them proud and celebrate again in November." (Alexandre Soares, Brazil coach).