The Salas brothers combining to delight
Juan and Javier Adolfo Salas helped Paraguay into the Round of 16
They discuss a goal they combined to score
Round of 16 opponents Argentina are also on the menu
Like all brothers, Juan and Javier Adolfo Salas sometimes fall out, and while they invariably patch things up quickly, this time it seems impossible to get them to agree. "It’s him, obviously!” said the former. "Of course it’s him,” the latter responded. Neither wants to give any ground on what is, admittedly, a tough question from FIFA.com. The subject is the goal that enabled Paraguay to beat Japan 2-1 and qualify for the Round of 16 of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™ and, specifically, who was more involved in the strike and therefore deserving of most credit. This crucial goal was scored by Juan from a pass by Juan Adolfo. "The one who scores the goal always does the hardest part,” said the man with the assist. "Scoring is the most difficult aspect of the sport, particularly when you look at the size of the court and the goals. It’s tough to get it over the line so he’s the one who did the most work." The goalscorer himself, know as 'Cholo', was having none of it, however. "He put it on a plate for me, at the right time and in exactly the right spot. All I had to do was make contact and it was in the back of the net. So the most important part was his pass."
Neither of them is willing to back down on this one, but where they do find common ground is in recalling how they felt when the ball crossed the line after their combined efforts. "How can I describe that moment? I don’t know… we’ve been playing together for so many years now. My brother’s my idol! Setting him up to score a goal as important as that one made me so happy,” said ‘Kuko’, who had earlier provided the assist for Julio Mareco’s equaliser. "It’s always nice to score, particularly when it’s an important goal. But scoring from a pass from your brother is a feeling that I can’t put into words,” added Juan, who is captain of La Albirroja, but he is equally keen to stress the fact that this was not merely a Salas family affair. "It wasn’t just a goal by two brothers. It was a goal scored by the whole team that made all of Paraguay happy." The team will be hoping to keep all of Paraguay happy for as long as possible and put behind them the disappointment of their quarter-final defeat at Colombia 2016™, when they went down to IR Iran in the dying moments of extra-time. "It’s something that still really hurts to this day,” says 31-year-old Juan, who has been playing for his country for the last 12 years and who scored on that fateful day. "We were seconds away from going to a penalty shootout and a chance of being among the top four teams in the world. That defeat really hurt. But we’ve bounced back, fought hard and here we are, through to the next round again." Javier Adolfo, who is three years younger, also played in that match and taps into that bitter memory as a source of motivation. "We still feel the pain from Colombia and want to use it to go further this time,” he said ahead of the clash with Argentina. "We’re really satisfied that we’ve got this far but we’re not finished just yet."
Against the defending champions, Paraguay will need to call on all the vast experience gained by the Salas brothers, who have followed the same path in their club careers, leaving their homeland at a young age to play in Italy. "We’ve seen and lived through a lot of things a long way from home. Some of them wonderful, others less so, and the most important thing has always been that we’ve been close to one another to share these things and support one another,” explained 'Kuko', who plies his trade with Pescara. "We’re really proud of being Paraguayans playing in such a high-quality league." 'Cholo' has turned out for Napoli, Lazio, Alam Salerno and Meta Catania, with a stint back home at Cerro Porteno. He left Italy in summer 2020 to play for ElPozo Merida, but he endured a tough season and the Spanish club chose not to renew his contract. For his country, however, Juan is on cloud nine, not least because it gives him and his brother the chance to wear the same jersey. "We’ve played together for Paraguay for a long time now and shared a lot of experiences, and I always like turning out alongside him – in part because he’s my brother, but first and foremost because he’s a great player." And who is the best in the family? Here we go again, back to square one… "I think it’s him,” said 'Cholo' with a grin. "Honestly, we’ve never compared ourselves to one another to see who’s better. We’ve always tried to support one another. The most important thing is that when we play together, we give our best for one another and for our team." And if 'Kuko' is to be believed, the Salas family has plenty of good years ahead of it as far as Paraguay is concerned. "We’ve got a little brother called Emerson – you’ll see, he’s the best in the family!"