Nico takes flight
Right up until the quarter-finals of Marseille 2008, most observers expected Spain's hopes of victory to lie at the feet of star forward Amarelle. But, although Spain's captain once again showed his talent against Argentina, it was two goals from Nico that sent La Furia Roja into the final four.
Born in Buenos Aires on the 24 July 1976, he certainly celebrated his 32nd birthday in style. "This match will always be a defining moment in my career," he told FIFA.com afterwards. "There were a lot of factors that made me feel under a certain amount of pressure but also an intense desire to do well. I was lucky that everything worked like a dream."
His double will no doubt be remembered by both statisticians and those spectators fortunate enough to witness a Spanish master class. Indeed, Joaquin Alonso's men never seemed to be in real danger as they controlled the game from start to finish.
"We know this Argentina team very well and we knew what we had to do: be patient and hit them on the break as fast as possible," explained Nico. "We had a lot of belief which enabled us to carry out our plans to perfection."
The Iberians appear to have been able to raise their game with each passing round, and La Selección's No6 is the perfect example. Hampered by an ankle injury not long before the start of this FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, Nico is finally back firing on all cylinders.
"It is true that I wasn't playing my best in the first round, and would like to thank my team mates for their support," he said. "I hope that this quarter-final has got me back on the right track. I feel that I'm progressing match by match and I want to keep proving myself right up to the final encounter of this tournament."
It may seem like La Roja have their eyes firmly set on the trophy, but let us not forget that their next obstacle is a very solid Italian side. Yet even the emphatic manner of the Azzurri's victory over hosts France does not appear to worry one of Spain's most experienced performers.
"We know the Italian team off by heart and we have faced them dozens of times. This will be a very close match. ."
And Nico and Co will be hoping to have the backing of the Stade du Prado crowd as they take on the Italians, the men responsible for ending the hopes of France. Whatever happens, Saturday's game is sure to be entertaining.