While Brazil continues its preparations for the sixth FIFA Futsal World Cup later this year, Malwee, the country's leading club side, shows no signs of losing its appetite for success. For the fourth consecutive year, the boys from Santa Catarina tasted glory at the South American Club Championship to underline their monopoly of the continental futsal scene.
This, the latest in a long line of triumphs, has given the Brazilians another crack at the Intercontinental Cup, the only piece of silverware missing from their trophy cabinet. Malwee's three previous attempts all ended in exactly the same way: defeat at the hands of Spain's Interviu Fadesa, a stumbling block that the Brazilians are anxious to negotiate once and for all. And not surprisingly they have given top priority to their bid for global supremacy.
As a glance at the FIFA Futsal World Cup record books shows, however, Spain's hold over Brazilian sides is not restricted merely to club futsal. After winning the first three FIFA World Cups, the men in yellow and green were knocked off their perch by the Spaniards in the final at Guatemala 2000, a surprise defeat that was repeated when the Iberians ended Auriverde hopes in the semi-finals at Chinese-Taipei 2004. Given this unpromising backdrop, can Malwee finally end Spanish hegemony and point the way for the national side this autumn?
Lords and masters of South America
Malwee earned the right to contest the South American Championship final by coming out on top in the Southern Zone last year. Facing them in the two-leg decider were Colombia's , Bello Jairuby, the winner's of the Northern Zone, a reprise of their 2007 success. Both matches were held in Jaragua do Sul, with the Brazilians comfortably prevailing 7-1 in the first tie and 6-2 in the second to confirm the country's domination at continental level. With Carlos Barbosa winning the tournament in 2002 and 2003, it has now been six years since the South American crown left Brazil.
Malwee's pre-eminence should come as no surprise to anyone, however. As well as boasting Falcao in their ranks - the greatest futsal player in the world - eight of the 12 players who lined up against the Colombians were also called up to the Canarinha squad for their two FIFA World Cup warm-up matches against Serbia. The men joining the biggest star in the game were goalkeeper Thiago, defenders Lenisio and Marcio, wingmen Ari and Willian and front men Chico and Leco.
One of the secrets behind the success of Fernando Ferreti's much-vaunted squad is their self-effacing modesty. It is an attitude that has brought them continued success as Ari, the scorer of two goals in the second leg, confirmed: "I'm just happy to have played my part. Now we can start to concentrate on the Intercontinental."
Time to end the Spanish hoodooThe victors decided to cut short their celebrations, however, opting instead to focus their energies on the next major challenge ahead of them: bringing an end to Spain's recent dominance. Just as the Spanish national side have ruled the waves since 2000, so have champion club Interviu Fadesa exerted an iron-like grip on the international club scene. Carlos Barbosa are the only Brazilian outfit to have lifted the Intercontinental Cup, that success coming in 2004, with Interviu claiming the trophy on the three other occasions it has been contested.
Nevertheless, Falcao is one man who thinks everything will be different his time round. "I think we'll be going into the game on an equal footing with Interviu this year. It's our turn now and we can't let slip another opportunity to win the title. It's the only one we've never won after all."
The six-team tournament will be held in the Spanish city of Granada on 3-6 April, with Malwee's domestic rivals Carlos Barbosa and Action 21 Charleroi of Belgium also taking part. The two other contenders have yet to be confirmed.
"We haven't got our sights just on the Spanish and we're not looking at this as a chance for revenge," added fabulous Falcao. "All we want to do is train and prepare for winning the world title." Time will tell just how many world titles come the Brazilian ace's way in 2008.