Joao Matos: We will give our lives for Portugal to become champions

  • Joao Matos has been instrumental to Portugal reaching the Lithuania 2021 final

  • He discussed the form of Pany and final opponents Argentina

  • “We will give our lives for Portugal to become champions”

Joao Matos felt like he’d just scaled the Annapurna Massif on Thursday night. Physically, he’d just endured an extra-time match for the third time in six days. Emotionally, he’d flashed from delirious to desolated on a dramatic evening in Kaunas. The end emotion was euphoria. Joao had helped Portugal scale an uncharted mountain: they reached the FIFA Futsal World Cup™ final for the first time. The defender, who was outstanding as Sporting came back to stun Barcelona in the UEFA Futsal Champions League final in May, chats to about what it means to reach the Lithuania 2021 final, opponents Argentina and the on-fire Pany. What did you think of the victory over Kazakhstan? Joao Matos: It was an extremely tough semi-final. I get really involved in games. I try to help the team as much as I can when I’m on and off the court. The goal with 46 seconds left, I got really emotional. Then when it went to penalties I had a flashback to Colombia in 2016. I missed a penalty and that error cost Portugal a medal. We won on penalties to guarantee ourselves a medal and reach the World Cup final. It was all so draining. After the game I was absolutely exhausted, physically and mentally.

How does it feel to be in a World Cup final? We’ve worked so, so hard to reach this level. The players and the coaching staff. The biggest fruit of our work was winning the EURO and now we’re in the World Cup final. The standard is even higher in the World Cup. You see how balanced the games are. The growth of the [lesser] teams has been incredible. Every game is so, so difficult. We’ve been to extra-time three times. We’ve managed to win matches through heart, individual plays and tactics. Now we have the opportunity to go down in history. We’re ready to give our lives for Portugal to become champions. Have you dreamed about lifting the trophy? I’ve dreamed about it so, so much. I have won every major title possible except the World Cup. I’m not the only Portugal player in this position. Winning the World Cup is the apex of any player’s career. To put yourself in history eternally, to help make your country world champions… it would be the greatest moment of my career. I’m sure we’d all say the same.

What do you think of the tournament Pany is having? Pany’s my team-mate, I have a good relationship with him and I’m very well positioned to tell you that I’m not surprised by what he’s doing in the slightest. I have no doubt that he’s among the best players in the world. He’s extremely complete. He has incredible talent, he’s good physically, he works really hard. He doesn’t even realise the potential he has. It’s staggering. He’s been decisive for Portugal here. Whenever we’re up against it, he has stepped up and made something happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins the Golden Ball because he deserves it.

What do you think of Argentina? They’re extremely competitive. In terms of being competitive they’re on a different level to any team in the world. I have no absolutely no doubt about this. Beating Argentina is extremely difficult. It’s rare to see them play badly. That’s why they’ve had so much success in recent years, that’s why they’re the world champions. They’re very well organised. They make fewer mistakes than any other team. They have great players but I think their biggest strength is the collective, their spirit. But we’re the European champions and we’re very confident. Its five against five. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a favourite, it could go both ways. Who will win the final? It’s sport, it’s a final, I’ve already seen so much happen in these games. We’re extremely confident in our coaches, their tactics. We have great belief in our team. We’re very focused. We have a unique opportunity. But I can tell you this: Argentina will have to put in an outstanding performance because we will give our lives for Portugal to become champions.