Marseille in thrall to Alan
Watch Portugal in action and your eye will no doubt be drawn to Madjer's soaring scissor-kicks and improbable shots from all angles. But as any beach soccer connoisseur will tell you, one of the most important performers in Ze Miguel's side is Alan. And with six goals and four assists already to his name at Marseille 2008, the No 6 is enjoying a tournament to remember.
"My personal performances don't matter. It's what the team does that counts," the man himself tells FIFA.com with disarming modesty. "Our goal this year is to play good football because we know that's the only way we can win our matches and go all the way in the competition."
In their three games to date Portugal have made their intentions very clear, showing a single-minded determination to win in style. After downing El Salvador 8-2, the Portuguese swamped Solomon Islands 13-4 and then beat Italy 5-4 (a.e.t) to win Group B. In doing so the Lusitanians have become the most prolific side in the tournament, scoring 26 goals to Brazil's 18, statistics that underline just how well they have been playing.
"I have always felt that the best sides are the ones who win titles," explains Alan. "We had a very good squad in 2005. We played some lovely football and we even beat Brazil. But then we went and lost to France in the final. No one remembers the losers, though, and people forgot about the quality of our performances in that tournament. So if you want to know whether I think this is the best side we've ever had, then come back to me on 27 July (laughs)."
If the Portuguese are to advance that far, they will first of all need to get past Uruguay in perhaps the tightest of Thursday's quarter-finals. Alan has happy memories of facing the South Americans, however. It was his brace that helped Portugal to a 5-4 first-round over the Celeste at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2006.
"We'll be aiming to play some entertaining beach soccer against them," he adds. "Uruguay have been attacking much more this year but, make no mistake, it's going to be a very tight match. Nobody should be expecting a two- or three-goal win because it's sure to be a tough battle. We need to bide our time and be inventive to get past them and let me tell you, I'll be happy if we win by even half a goal (laughs)."