Rodriguez eyes Brazil rematch

With Spain about to set off for Brazil to contest their fourth FIFA Futsal World Cup With Spain about to set off for Brazil to contest their fourth FIFA Futsal World Cup, who better than Javi Rodriguez to tell about the reigning champions' chances of retaining their crown? The 34-year-old has amassed an impressive collection of trophies during a glittering career, including two world titles (Guatemala 2000 and Chinese Taipei 2004), three European championships (Russia 2001, Czech Republic 2005 and Portugal 2007), the adidas Silver Ball in 2004 and numerous triumphs at club level.

Such success, however, has not sated the Spain captain's appetite. "We know very well it's going to be the hardest World Cup to win, because it's being held in Brazil and they're the big favourites. But after winning consecutive titles, we're the team to beat," he said. "A Spain-Brazil final is what I'm dreaming of. We stopped them from winning the last two World Cups and they won't be lacking in motivation. As for the crowds, we're not worried about them. The whistling will only make us stronger."

Although the pressure of defending the title will be intense, the Barcelona man is proud to accept the extra responsibility that this entails. "We've earned the respect of everyone else but we've done things right. There are two secrets to Spain's success. Firstly, we're a very tight-knit squad and we all pull together, and secondly, we've got a magnificent bunch of players, both on and off the pitch. There are no stars in our team and that's what makes us strong."

Despite Spain's strengths, the wide-man/pivot will not be taking his Group D rivals lightly. "Iran are the Asian champions right now and we can't afford to underestimate them, just like Czech Republic, who've got a group of players who have been together for a long time now," he says. "And you can't say Uruguay and Libya are the easiest opponents either. There aren't any pushovers in a World Cup and sometimes it's the weakest-looking sides who come through and surprise you."

Still going strong
Javi is now preparing for his fourth FIFA Futsal World Cup™ finals, having made his first appearance in the competition at Spain 1996. "I only got called up because someone else was injured," he recalls. "It was amazing, though. The tournament was held in my hometown of Barcelona and it was great to play in front of more than 15,000 people in the final at the Palau Sant Jordi. Having all those people cheering us on was amazing.

"Guatemala was a beautiful experience," he continues. "Everybody made us feel right at home, and in the final we brought Brazil's domination to an end. And Chinese Taipei just confirmed that the title we'd won four years earlier was no fluke and was down to hard work. As for my most special memory, well that has to be the goal I scored in the Guatemala 2000 final against Brazil. That made it 4-3 and it gave us our first World Cup."

Sixteen years an international, the incombustible Rodriguez is not thinking of retiring just yet. "I've got at least two more seasons on in me. I'll be 36 when my contract with Barcelona ends so we'll see if I can stay free of injury," he says. "Right now I just want to take things day by day and enjoy this World Cup."

And even though he is approaching the twilight of his career, he is reluctant to name a successor to his position. "I don't see why anyone should have to take over from me," he says. "Every player has their own contribution to make and their own character, and there'll be a lot of players making an impact after I've gone. All I want is for Spain to keep on winning.

"We're really looking forward to Brazil," he concludes, preferring to focus on the task in hand. "We've won the last two and we're going for this one as well. We'll be taking it step by step, trying to have fun and win at the same time."