- Rodrigo captains Brazil and world club kings Magnus Sorocaba
- The dynamite-footed defender discusses the Lithuania 2020 favourites
- Falcao, Eder Lima and Ricardinho are also on the menu
"It was like a scene from a movie."
A bearded man, in the middle of a dusty highway, flagged down a truck and sardined 20 of his soldiers into its trunk.
Tom Hardy, who headlined Lawless, The Drop, Mad Max: Fury Road and Legend, would have fit the role of headliner. This time, however, another Hardy assumed the lead role. Rodrgo Hardy, captain of reigning futsal world club kings Magnus Sorocaba.
Suspension for the first leg of Brazilian National League final didn’t dissuade the selfless 35-year-old accompanying his team-mates on an exhausting, 12-hour coach journey to Pato Branco. There, en route to their final training session, the bus broke down. That’s when Rodrigo leapt into action, persuaded a Johnny-on-the-spot driver he wasn’t being robbed, and charmed him into transporting the squad to a gymnasium.
“Being captain is not just about what you do on the pitch, but I never imagined it would involve that,” Rodrigo told FIFA.com, chuckling.
Rodrigo is doubtlessly one of the finest players on the planet. He has, despite being a defender, just finished as the Brazilian National League’s leading marksman for the third time and hit 95 goals in 145 internationals – figures indebted to a torpedo of a right foot. Furthermore, he dazzled as Brazil won their fifth FIFA Futsal World Cup™ at Thailand 2012.
Magnus ultimately lost that aforementioned tie to Pato last month, but they conquered a third consecutive World Intercontinental Futsal Cup in Thailand in September, winning penalty shoot-outs against Corinthians in the semi-finals and Boca Juniors in the final. Rodrigo took, and scored, his side’s first spot-kick on both occasions.
“Boca eliminated Barcelona in the semi-finals and have great players, so we knew it was going to be a really tough game,” he said. “I’ve always had the desire to assume responsibility and take penalties. I think as an experienced player and a captain it’s my duty. It was my fourth world [club] title and third with Sorocaba, so I was delighted.”
Rodrigo is anticipating another clash against Argentinian opposition early next month. Brazil, the record five-time Futsal World Cup chiefs, and Argentina, the reigning champions, will begin South American qualifying for Lithuania 2020 – four slots are available – expected to clash in the final.
“Their coach at the last World Cup revolutionised Argentinian futsal,” said Rodrigo. “They’re a great side. They have great players, but they also know how to play the game.
“The rest of the South American teams are getting better day by day. We will have to play really well to qualify.”
Rodrigo is hoping to appear at his third Futsal World Cup – and unfinished business nags at him. He scored four goals in four games at Colombia 2016, including two venomous free-kicks and a breathtaking volley, but Brazil lost on penalties to IR Iran in a Round-of-16 thriller.
“We knew how good Iran were, but it was really upsetting because we were 2-0 up, 3-1 up, we were never behind, and we lost on penalties,” said Rodrigo.
“It’s really difficult to remain in the Brazilian national team. Brazil could put out four, five teams that could compete in the World Cup. But at that moment I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do absolutely everything to play in another World Cup.’”
Falcao scored a hat-trick in that game against the Iranians in what proved, agonisingly, to be his final appearance at the Futsal World Cup.
“Falcao is the best player in the world ever,” said the man who succeeded him as Brazil captain. “Undoubtedly. Nobody will ever get close to him.
“He broke so many records, won so many titles, made plays other great players can’t even dream about. He revolutionised the way the media treat futsal.”
Without Falcao, Rodrigo is confident, nevertheless, in Brazil’s chances at Lithuania 2020.
“Argentina are very good,” he said. “Russia have great players. Eder Lima is a killer in front of goal.
“Spain are Spain – we have a great rivalry with them, a lot of Brazilians play there. The Spanish learnt from the Brazilians, but now they have a great team of their own. Iran are strong. Portugal with Ricardinho, you can’t rule them out.
“Ricardinho keeps winning the Best Player in the World award, but Brazil has outstanding players too: Gadeia, Dyego, Pito, Ferrao, Leandro Lino, Guitta, Leozinho, who’s been a revelation.
“I think this is what sets Brazil apart. We have 14 great players. The issue [coach] Marquinho faces is that he has 14 players who are used to being decisive for their clubs. Some of us will have to do the running, the donkey work.
“But we’re very united, very strong, and I’m certain we’ll arrive in the best shape possible to try and bring the title back to Brazil.”