A good general is more important than a thousand strong army, says the Chinese proverb. For Team Melli, who are looking to show their skills on the world stage at FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004 after on their undisputed continental dominance, 29-year-old Vahid Shamsaee is a daring and potent general to help them on this quest.
Following a disappointing 4-0 defeat at the hands of Portugal, Vahid Shamsaee opened his account in the second group match with Cuba with a hat trick, leading his side up to an 8-3 triumph. Heading into the all-important encounter with Argentina, the former Lazio striker appears confident about beating the South Americans to advance to knockout stage. FIFA.com caught up with "Mr. Goal" to talk about his future and that of his team.
FIFA.com: Was morale greatly affected by the opening 4-0 defeat by Portugal?
Vahid Shamsaee: No. Portugal are a strong team and they were the better side in the match. But we know we have good qualities so we believed we could put in a fine performance against Cuba.
Did you feel you would win the match when you opened scoring after just three minutes against Cuba?
It was good that we took an early lead as we could then put our game plan into effect. But you can never say you have the game won until the match is over. We have experienced a lot of bitter moments when the opponents came back to score winning goals in the last few minutes. So we kept pressing hard until we heard the final whistle.
Six-time Asian champions, Iran are looking to make a leap on the world stage in this FIFA Futsal Championship. Do you feel excited to pit yourselves against Argentina, Portugal and Cuba of Group D?
It is the most difficult group, to be honest. All our three rivals are formidable and powerful. We know we will have tough competition ahead but we are excited to face them.
Your last group match with Argentina will be a stiff test for you as you need a win to grab a spot in the last eight. How do you rate your chances against them?
Definitely Argentina are a heavily fancied side and one of the favorites to win the title, but we have our own strength so we have chances. When I played with Lazio in Italy, I played with many players from Argentina. I know their style very well.
So what do you think are their strengths and what are yours?
Basically Argentina can organize a very solid defence and they don't concede goals easily. This way they throw the pressure on the opponents while looking for chances to score. We are an attack-minded team and we can score against any teams.
Compared to your abilities going forward, do you feel you are relatively weak at the back?
The result is the most important thing. We will not press too hard this time at the beginning but concentrate on keeping it tight in the early stages. Given the abilities of our front men, we will have chances to score as long as we defend well.
If you go through the group stage, what is your target for this FIFA tournament?
We want a spot in last four. We are looking to improve on our brilliant performance at Hong Kong 1992 when we reached the semi-finals.
Iran's tremendous success in futsal is based on the good organization and management of competitions at all levels throughout the country. When did you start to get involved in this five-a-side football?
Firstly I played football in my early childhood as many other children in Iran. We played in the streets, courtyard, roads and any other space we could find. You may call it "futsal" as we always had less people playing than 11-a-side. And in 1999 I turned professional to play futsal.
You made such rapid progress and improvement in futsal that in 2003 you moved to the Italian futsal club Lazio. How do you look back on your stint with the Rome club?
I have really fond memories of my time there. The Italian people love futsal and they were very kind to me. The competition there is at a good level and I improved my skills and understanding of futsal. I played well and scored a lot of goals and that's why the fans in Italy nicknamed me "Mr. Goal".
Why did you go back to Iran?
The main reasons were because of my family. My wife just couldn't adapt to the environment after a while. So we had to return eventually.
Are you looking for, or will you accept new offers from top European futsal clubs?
I am a professional futsal player and I would love to play for a club at the top-level. If there was a really good offer on the table I would be interested.
It's been reported that Russian futsal club Spartak have offered you a big money one-year contract - is this true? Are you going to think about it?
Yes, it's correct. I will think about this but of course I have to discuss it with my wife.
Do you have a favorite player?
Brazil's Falcao is a splendid futsal player. He has dazzling and amazing skills and a cool head as well.
At the age of 29, what are your plans after you retire from the game?
My main interest is to stay in the game in sone capacity - maybe coaching a team. But if there are no good opportunities, I will join my family in their construction company.
Do you have a last message for your fans?
I would like to thank everyone very much for supporting me and my team. My team will give everything we have for the rest of the tournament.