The Cubans arrived at FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004 knowing it would be a steep learning curve for their young squad. While the experience will prove invaluable for those new to this level, one man's performances have stood head and shoulders above the rest. The Cuban keeper Wilfredo Carbo has kept shots out with all parts of his body while finding time to cajole his defence into 100% concentration. FIFA.com caught up with Carbo as he reflected on the tournament, futsal in Cuba and his video collection.
Did you always want to play in goal? Central and South Americans usually revere their No10s…
I always wanted to be goalkeeper. I always played there even as a young boy. I was the only one in my family who played football. When I was very young, about 4-years-old, they said don't go and play football, but when they saw me play, they said - "Go, go, play football" - they encouraged me then. First I played 11-a-side and I played in goal for the national team in the Olympic qualification tournaments, then I switched to futsal in 1997.
You found you preferred the indoor game?
For a while I tried to do both. When I was selected for the national team for Guatemala 2000 I stopped played 11-a-side. I decided I would have to specialise - the techniques are so different. In football the keepers must try to catch the ball, but in futsal the shots are too hard, from too close to do that. We have to block the ball and get it away from the danger area. In futsal you have to be very alert - we are in the game all the time. Plus you need to be at least 180cm to be a great goalkeeper in 11-a-side, but you can be a bit shorter in futsal.
Tell us about your coach Clemente Reinoso.
The coach is a very tough, demanding figure. He is not the type of man to put his arm around you and praise you, he is always looking to improve on the mistakes we make. The training is physically tough - each match he demands more and more from us. So we prepare very well - especially the keepers, because he regards that as a particularly important position in the sport - so there is extra pressure on me.
How popular is futsal in Cuba?
Futsal in Cuba is mainly based in Havana and it's big - there are over thirty teams there, but each province has at least one or two teams. The national championships take place every year and let me tell you they are fiercely contested. Futsal is very popular in Cuba, the children are really taking up the sport in numbers.
How have you found Chinese Taipei?
I've been to Asia before - when we went to North Korea for a training camp, but it's my first time here. It's an amazing place - the colours, the neon, it's a 24 hour city. The people have been very respectful to us and the courts and the stadiums are excellent. It's very different from Havana though! My home city is more old fashioned - there is so much development here. People are very warm in Cuba because of the culture and the music - but I'm sure there is plenty of music here too. We've been concentrating on the games, but perhaps we'll have a chance to sample some music before we go home!
What were the aims of the squad going into the tournament?
The main point was for us to get better. We wanted to improve on our showing in the last two tournaments. We lost much more heavily to Argentina four years ago so we're making progress.
What have you, as a team, learnt from the tournament?
The main things are improve on the way we rotate the players tactically on the pitch and our level of concentration. We have watched Spain, who are superb technically but they also show very good discipline - they don't seem to make any errors, they stay focused. This is usually our downfall - we lose concentration, so for us to watch these matches we see how important it is to concentrate for the full 40 minutes. We're trying to make as few errors as possible, because if you make a mistake here you pay for it.
Can you put your finger on why your performances have been so good?
Before each game I try to visualize myself on the court and try to think about keeping my concentration for the full match. I try to give everything - put all of my energy into the matches. If I make a mistake I try to forget about it straight away - put it out of my mind. The Cuban characteristic is always to fight back - we keep going whatever the scoreline.
You must have been pleased with your second half performance against Iran?
While he played well against Argentina the problem in the first half of the Iran game was our concentration. We just weren't focused in the first half against Iran - we concentrated in second half but we need to be like Spain, we need to focus right from the start to the very last second.
What's life like for you in Cuba?
When I'm not training for futsal, I am a teacher in a sports school and I am a goalkeeping coach. I teach children aged 11, 12, 13. I love to work with kids of this age, they look up to me as a father figure and they absorb a lot of information from me. When you guide them at that age they will remember it and use it forever.
Tell us a little about your team-mates.
We are a mixture of youth and experience. We have three players who have now played in three World Championships (Boris Saname, Pillin Guerra and Papi Portal) and we have a lot of youngsters. Guerra is very serious. The captain Papi Portal is very funny person, he's always playing tricks, while Yosniel Mesa never sits down. We're looking to learn a lot and improve ourselves but we're a happy squad - Cubans are always happy!
If not Cuba, who would you like to win the Championship?
I have seen the Brazilian team and they are tremendous. Falcao is a great player with a fierce shot. The Brazilians are fantastic - they have such great tricks. At my home I have the Spain v Brazil tape from 2000 and I watch the tape each week over and over again because both those teams are so fantastic. I like the Brazilians and Spain, but if I had to choose one it would be Brazil.