Marinho may not look like a typical Portugal international, thanks to his pale skin and blond hair, and his style of play also appears to have little to do with that of A Selecção das Quinas’ flamboyant attacking stars Madjer, Alan and Belchior. Yet while the veteran defender will not be the one catching the eye with acrobatic displays, he brings an invaluable blend of tight marking, defensive cover and ruggedness in the tackle to one of the world’s most skilful beach soccer sides.

“That’s about right,” said the player when speaking to here at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011. “My job’s to graft hard for the team and close down our opponents, so that our truly outstanding players have the space to work their magic. I think my dedication to the cause is the reason why I’m still playing for Portugal at 39 years of age.”

Such is the faith put in him, Portugal’s line-up at key moments generally consists of Marinho alone holding the fort in front of keeper Paulo Graca, keeping a tight hold on the reins so that Madjer, Alan and Belchior can run riot. Not merely are they coach Ze Miguel Mateus’ first-choice men, they are also his most experienced.

“It ends up falling to us to transmit a sense of security to the younger lads. Marinho, because of where he plays out on the pitch and the responsible way he goes about his business, is vital for that,” said 36-year-old Alan, who rebuffed suggestions that his team-mate is the only one who gets his hands dirty. “That’s not exactly how it is, no. We’re all getting old nowadays so everyone has to do all kinds of work: dirty, clean, whatever needs doing,” added the No6 with a grin.

My job’s to graft hard for the team and close down our opponents, so that our truly outstanding players have the space to work their magic.

Portugal defender Marinho

“Every team needs one or two more defensive-minded players,” continued Marinho, on how he remains an integral part of the Portugal set-up after 12 years in the squad. “You need players like that to give security to the team, and Ze knows just how to get the balance right.”

Strengthening the bond between defender and coach is the fact that, for four years, Ze Miguel and Marinho played together for the national team – with the current supremo formerly between the sticks for A Selecção das Quinas. “I played in front of Ze Miguel when he was our keeper, and so he’s been giving me instructions since those days,” explained Marinho. “This means that we've now got a huge amount of trust in each other. There’s no doubt he also believes in the rest of the team, but I think what we share is a bit special.”

And next time Madjer or Belchior earn gasps of admiration from the crowd thanks to yet another spectacular strike, spare a thought for Marinho as he works away in the background – laying the foundations for his colleagues to shine.