Ivan: We've won the bronze, now we want a different colour
After the first goalless draw in the history of the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004, FIFA.com caught up with one of the main reasons for the result - Portugal's strongman Ivan. The winner of three Portuguese titles talked to us on the eve of his country's make or break game with World Champions Spain to decide who goes through to the semi-finals…
FIFA.com: Is this your first trip to this part of the world?
Ivan: Yes, it's my first time in Asia. It's a totally different culture from what I'm used to, from the food, the way people react to each other, what they say to us, it's a brand new world. It's a new experience for us - a very good experience. I am enjoying it very much.
How would you compare it to Guatemala 2000?
It's a much more competitive tournament. We have many good teams here and for us it's going well at the moment.
Tell us about your coach Orlando Duarte. He's a very thoughtful man…
He's a superb coach. I've played in a lot of different teams and he is by far the best coach I've ever had. He's not only got a good understanding of tactics but also he's strong on the psychological aspects of the game. He carefully studies our opponents and he builds up the fighting spirit in the camp.
The team spirit in the group is good?
We have a very strong spirit in the group. We really function as a collective. You can't really pinpoint different players' characteristics because sometimes one person is more happy, more joyful, but other on other days it is different. We have worked together for a long time, we have known each other for a long time, we know each other from our clubs and the national team. Even the newer members of the team enter in the same spirit.
You played football in Brazil - why did you make the change?
I had a very short football career in the Brazilian 3rd division, then I entered futsal - although I have been playing futsal for 25 years since I was seven. I started playing futsal but had a little period playing football - in Brazil football is a very competitive environment. You have a lot of very good players and if you are not a top player it's difficult to build a career there. So I focused on futsal as I was a better player at futsal and could earn more money. I also prefer to play futsal.
How did the move to Portugal come about?
I moved to Portugal eight years ago to play futsal professionally. I went to Portugal thinking about maybe being there for 6 months and I'm still there because I have enjoyed it so much. All players in Brazil would like to play in Europe at some stage in their career - it's a new experience for them. In Portugal I earn more money than in Brazil so I joined all those aspects together - the new experience, the different futsal and stayed….
Did you ever think of playing futsal for Brazil?
Of course I thought about playing for the Brazilian national team while I was playing in Brazil but then I moved abroad. In those days there was a rule that the only players who played in Brazil could play for the national team. Players who were abroad couldn't play. So once I left I didn't expect to play. The rule has changed this year so players playing in Italy or Portugal or Spain can now play for Brazil.
Spain coach Javier Lozano has said any of five teams can win it (Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Italy or Portugal) Would you agree?
Sure - we can see from the results that the Championship is very competitive and I think we are one of the candidates for the title.
Which defenders have stood out for you so far?
I'd pick out two - Kike of Spain and the Argentina captain Sanchez, although the Brazilians are all very good defenders, they have a different way of playing - they are all such good players that I don't want to single any one of them out.
What about the forwards?
There are many forwards in the tournament who are very difficult to stop - they are skilful players, but the one who stands out is Falcao. He can make a difference in a match because he can do the unexpected. Others have many qualities and are very skilful but Falcao is so unpredictable. I have played against him and it went ok for me, but not for the team - we lost 4-2 and he scored three times! He was responsible for the defeat!
What are the team's aims?
We are here to get a medal - but we've already get the Bronze medal so we want a different colour. If we could get the gold it would be perfect but we want to leave with a medal.
How will you approach the game with Spain as you only need a draw?
It is our aim to reach the semi-finals so we need to finish 1st or 2nd in the group, but we really want to finish first. Two reasons - we would like to play Brazil in the final, not before. Even if we have huge amounts of respect for all the teams we would like to avoid Brazil in the semi-finals. It's not only that though, we'd like to show that we are the best team.
Are you confident about facing Brazil?
We have played against Brazil several times in the last few years and we see that the gap between Portugal and Brazil is closing. In the last matches Brazil only won in the last few minutes. They are starting to have a different kind of respect for our team. I think we can beat them.
Argentina were criticised for being too defensive against Brazil. Would you agree?
I respect the coaching aspects very much - I think if you are going to play against Brazil without concentrating on your defence you'll lose the game within ten minutes. Each team must have their own way of tackling Brazil. I respect the way Argentina played even if it doesn't always produce the open game that the spectators or the television audience might want. We have an expression in Portuguese: "You have to fight with your own guns".
There's been a lot of talk of improvements in defending in this tournament. What's the view of one from the best defenders?
I don't think it's only the defensive aspects which are being improved. Now people have a better all-round knowledge of futsal and about the other teams. The coaches are better prepared, they understand the different formations the other teams use so it's obvious that the gap between teams will close. If you know how Brazil play or how Italy play, your first thought is how to attack, how to beat them but just as important is how to defend, how to stop them scoring goals. It's not only a defensive improvement it's also one in tactics generally in all aspects of the game.
The Czech coach Michal Striz felt your professional league gave you a big advantage over his players…
It's very important to have a professional league in your country because it's different when you have an amateur player and a professional player - one who trains twice a day - it makes a big difference in the way a team plays and the physical aspects.
(Argentinian player Leandro Planas walks past) We see you have the Argentinian players in your hotel. Have you socialized at all?
Outside the court we are good friends. Most of the time we are not together because we have different training schedules but we are have played against them already - at the end of the match we are all friends.
What do you think the legacy of playing the FIFA Futsal World Championships in Chinese Taipei might be?
Organising this World Championship here can help futsal to spread in Chinese Taipei. We've been really happy with the organisation of the event. It's important to bring futsal to those countries who are less in touch with the sport.
What effect would winning the title have in futsal-mad Portugal?
If we win it could have a big impact in Portugal even if the sport is already very popular in the country. It keeps growing year-on-year but if we could win it could grow even further.
Can we look forward to seeing you in 2008?
It won't be for the want of trying. But I'm not a youngster - I'm 32, let's just wait and see.
Finally when you stop playing will you go back to Brazil?
I haven't honestly given it much thought. I will go where I have an opportunity to work even when I stop playing. I'm very happy in Portugal, my family are settled, I'm happy with where we live. I do think about the future but not in a planned way. I am interested in taking up coaching - I have already gained my first level coaching badge and Freixieiro have offered me the chance to coach the younger players. When I stop playing I will probably take the exams for the other levels of coaching to coach the senior players.
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