"Excuses are for losers."
Paco Sedano's words hung in the air at Cali's Coliseo el Pueblo. Spain had just been knocked out by Russia in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 and disappointment was written across the face of the goalkeeper, the only member of the squad with a world title under his belt.
The memory of that triumph at Chinese Taipei 2004 offered scant consolation for the 36-year-old, although the veteran's vast experience came through in his measured remarks. "There was sadness in the dressing room, but that's sport. We had dreamed of winning the World Cup and now we have to go home," a subdued Sedano told FIFA.com, before sounding a more defiant note: "No one has died and we have to pick ourselves up. Life goes on."
His first verdict on the 6-2 loss to Russia was short and to the point: "They were better than us." When pressed, he elaborated a little: "We weren't at our best. We tried everything, but there are days when things don't come off for you. Above all we lacked sharpness with the ball."
Sergio Lozano, Aicardo and Jose Ruiz, who had been responsible for eight of Spain's 18 goals en route to the quarter-finals, all missed out against the Russians through injury. However, Sedano refused to attribute the defeat to their absence: "I'll say it again: excuses are for losers. We were without several players when we won the last European Championship, so it's not about that. They outplayed us, end of story."
The importance of perspective
This is the first time that Spain have failed to reach the semi-finals of the Futsal World Cup since the inaugural edition, Netherlands 1989. Furthermore, as any fan could tell you, they had made it to the last five finals in a row, tasting glory twice.
For this reason, the No1 was at pains to put this early exit – by Spain's standards – into context and issue a categorical defence of the La Roja regime: "This is a team that have enjoyed success in the past and you can't call everything into question because of one bad day at the office." "The whole set-up isn't going to come crashing down because of one setback," he went on, not lowering his gaze.
Accordingly, the keeper is already looking ahead with optimism: "There is a bright future for this side. It has its fair share of young players and as if that weren't enough, futsal is flourishing in Spain. That's why I'm convinced that the national team will keep challenging for trophies."
The battle for silverware looks likely to involve ever more contenders, as Sedano is well aware. Tellingly, with the Spaniards following holders Brazil in bowing out, a new champion will be crowned at Colombia 2016.
Nevertheless, the shot-stopper was also adamant that the competition has always been fierce: "We always got to the final before, but that doesn't mean it was easy. There were already other great teams and we were made to work hard."
On this note, he also downplayed the idea that there is a 'new world order' in the game. "I don't know that I'd go that far, but what is true is that futsal has grown. It's good for the sport not to always have the same winners."
Before Sedano headed off to the mixed zone to speak to the assembled press, there was still time for one last question about his future, but the Barcelona custodian was quick to bat it away. "I can't speak about that now. This is a moment to think about the team, not about ourselves personally. Right now I just want to get back to training with my club, then we'll see what happens."