You could be forgiven for thinking that at the age of 30, Alessandro Rosa Vieira, aka Falcao, was a man fulfilled. Yet the one title missing from his glittering collection of honours is the most important of all. The Brazilian futsal star has come close twice to world glory, only to see his dreams dashed on both occasions by the same team. And since the second of those disappointments, Falcao has been patiently waiting for the chance to exact revenge. The question is, could this be his last tilt at the most coveted trophy of all?
"Time will tell, but yes, winning the world championship would be the icing on the cake," the man widely acknowledged as the world's finest futsal exponent tells FIFA.com. If a trophy-laden 2007 is anything to go by, then he is right on course to achieve his goal. In a year in which Brazil came, saw and conquered, Falcao also finished top scorer at the Panamerican Games in Rio de Janeiro and in the Grand Prix for good measure.
A day to remember
It was against Venezuela on 6 October that the legendary striker notched his 200th goal in his 150th game in green and yellow. "It's immensely satisfying to have reached those figures with the national team," he says. "It's taken me many years of hard work to get there, a lot of caps and a lot of happiness too. Naturally, my many team-mates over the years have contributed to every one of those goals."
A native of San Paolo, Falcao took up the game at the age of 12, winning his first club title as an 18-year-old. Within a year he had been called up to the Brazil side although his first international goal did not come until two years later. The goals have come thick and fast since then, and the highlights of his stratospheric career include topping the scoring charts at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004 and winning the FIFA Futsal World Player award that same year.
As if that were not enough, in 2005 the Malwee/Jaragua goal machine also fulfilled one of his ambitions by switching to the 11-a-side game and turning out for none other than Brazilian giants Sao Paulo. "It was a very productive year," he recalls. "I played for a world-famous club, we won the Paulista State Championship, took part in the [Copa] Libertadores and I learned a lot of things. All the same, I'm very happy to be back playing my sport again."
The one title that still eludes him is the FIFA Futsal World Cup. His first near-miss came at Guatemala 2000, where he bagged 6 goals but failed to score in the final as Brazil lost 4-3 to Spain. Amazingly, Falcao and Co suffered virtually the same fate at Chinese Taipei 2004. The lethal finisher hit the back of the net 13 times but saw the Spanish dash his team's hopes again, this time in a penalty shootout in the semis.
One man who was not shocked by Spain's twin triumphs over the supposed lords and masters of the sport was the Brazilian star himself. "For the last 20 years or so they've had quite a few foreigners in their team, particularly Brazilians, and their league is very organised. It's obvious they were going to improve. What's more, it's easy for them to get together, whereas it's harder for us because we've got several guys abroad."
And just in case the prospect of giving Spain a taste of their own medicine were not motivation enough, next October's showpiece event is being hosted on home soil. "Winning the championship at home would be fantastic for me but also for our sport, which is played by more than ten million people. It would help make it even more popular."
Falcao has no doubts he and his cohorts will be ready for the challenge. "Our preparations are going well but we need to keep working. I think we'll be the favourites along with Spain of course, but we'll need to watch out for Russia, Italy, Portugal and Argentina, who are all coming on very quickly."
And yet perhaps surprisingly for someone with such a big dream to fulfil, Falcao would not swap a single one of his goals for the biggest prize in the sport. "I don't see why I'd want to do that," he comments. "Of course it's the biggest title there is, but you can only win it by scoring goals. In fact, I'm hoping the biggest achievement of my career is still to come. I'd just love to score in the World Cup final."