Ever since assembling the power trio of Madjer, Hernâni and Alan in 1998, Portugal have been one of the best teams in the world. Being the only country ever to snatch a Beach Soccer World Championship title from Brazil - in 2001 - and also defeating the Canarinha in a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup match says a lot about how dangerous the Portuguese can be.
Head coach José Miguel Mateus has been steadily adding some new blood to the mix, so much so that this season the triumvirate became a quartet, as Belchior finished the Euro Beach Soccer League 2007 with 18 goals, including the 7-6 go-ahead strike against France that lifted them to the continental trophy in Marseilles.
Almost assured of finishing among the top teams, Portugal were keen to break the "runners-up hex" that has dogged them historically. After being frustratingly defeated in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2005 and in both 2004, 2005 and 2006 Euro Beach Soccer League final matches, Portugal was adamant about showing some winning attitude and the taboo.
They did it in convincing fashion too, beating Eric Cantona's France with a 7-6 triumph that frustrated a packed stadium in Marseilles and cemented the Portuguese side's status as leading candidates to dethrone Brazil at the Copacabana.
José Miguel Mateus knows what he is doing when he shouts and asks his team to change positioning: after a victorious career as a football goalkeeper, he moved to the sand and wore Portugal's number-one jersey before he took over head coaching duties. After this year's European title, all he longs for is a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup trophy to round out the first stage of a glorious coaching career.
Talk about a no-brainer. The awards should speak for themselves: Madjer is the only player ever to win the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup's Golden Ball for the best player and the Golden Shoe as top scorer. He did it both in the 2005 and 2006 editions, amassing 33 goals in 11 matches. With all that, his place is more than secure in the sport's pantheon.
But, still, years from now, when remembered as one of the greatest beach soccer players of all times, Madjer does not want that bothering asterisk besides his name, reminding him that he has never won a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup title. "I would change each and every individual award for lifting that trophy", he assures.
Brazil's current mind-boggling unbeatable streak began after they lost their only FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup match ever: a penalty kick shootout to the hands of Portugal in the semi-finals of the maiden edition in 2005.
And even before frustrating the Brazilians at home in May 2005, the Portuguese had already been the only team to pinch a Beach Soccer World Championship title away form Brazil, when they triumphed in 2001.
It all sounds like a thriving record, but Portugal know that there is something missing. In the first two editions of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, they finished with a loss to France - once in the final (2005) and then in the 3 rd-place play-off (2006). It seems about time for a win on Sunday - preferably in the title match.
What they said...
"The main goal of our steady rebuilding process is to form a compact, strong squad that may rely on several different players whenever there is a critical moment. When you play a knock-out competition like the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, having this array of options becomes even more crucial. I guess right now we are reaching a very interesting stage of this process. We have the ability to damage our opponents through different means." - José Miguel Mateus, head coach POR.