De Oliveira: Spain the team to beat

For Brazilian fans, the time has come for the Seleção to dazzle on home soil and secure the FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil 2008 that their extraordinary talent demands.

As excitement and expectation builds in Brazil, one man doing his utmost to keep things in check is Paulo Cesar "PC" de Oliveira. The Seleção coach is not buying into the local fans' assessment that his side are the best in the world, at least not until they have overcome Spain, winners of the last two editions of this event.

"Spain are the team to beat at this World Cup. They're a group that have had everything planned out for years now. They may have changed coach, but they've continued their work just as before," the Auriverde supremo tells FIFA.com.

"Nowadays the Spanish export their technical know-how and tactical nous to the rest of the [futsal] world. We have to leave aside the arrogance and pride that makes us think we're the best team in the world, because we're not. We also need to understand the Spanish game and learn to explore its tactical aspects. Of course, we must do that without taking away from the individual potential the Brazilian players, which is what sets us apart."

A balanced Brazil squad
PC knows that his side's first big test will come in the group phase, where they will cross swords with one of the favourites, Russia. "They are title candidates, no question about it. I believe that Russia, Portugal, Italy and ourselves are a step below Spain, but that we all have what it takes to compete for the title. Moreover, every World Cup throws up at least one surprise team. In that regard, keep an eye on the improving Argentinians; they're showing better form than ever. We also know from having played Libya, Iran and Egypt that they're improving all the time. The best prepared teams will gain an edge on the others," he says.

Anyone looking at the Brazilian squad, with its many great players, would find it hard to believe that the coach anguished over omitting several other futsal idols. "From the start I knew full well I'd have more than 14 players capable of representing us at this World Cup. However, in my quest for a more even group, I had to sacrifice some wonderfully talented players. Now, though, I have the most balanced Brazilian squad in a long time," he insists.

Before finishing up, Oliveira makes an interesting analysis. "Nowadays, it's much harder to win a World Cup than four years ago, because every country is investing in futsal now we're seeing rapid improvements. That's something we've been aware of and why we deemed it necessary to professionalise our technical committee, build our own training academy and do all the work we've done over the last four years. That's the only way to prepare a team capable of winning the world title, while at the same time paving the way for the next generation."