Ortiz: I’ll tell Ricardinho to go easy on us
Spain and Portugal meet in the Lithuania 2021 quarter-finals
Spain captain Ortiz is close friends with Portugal’s Ricardinho
The two have spent eight seasons together in club futsal
This Sunday evening, Carlos Ortiz and Ricardinho will finally sit down and have the coffee they have been promising each other.
“They’re in Vilnius and I’ll stop by and have a good chat with him over a coffee,” the Spain skipper told FIFA.com. He is clearly looking forward to the chance to catch up with one of his best friends in futsal: “I’ll tell him to go easy on us because he’s one of those players who always pulls something special out of the bag when it really matters. I hope he hasn’t got much left in the tank.”
The two will have their catch-up before facing off on the court on Monday, when Spain and Portugal meet in the quarter-finals at Lithuania 2021. After sharing a dressing room for the last eight seasons (seven at Movistar Inter in Spain and one at ACCS Futsal in France), Ortiz and Ricardinho are ready to lead their national teams out and take each other on.
The last time that happened was at the UEFA Futsal EURO in 2018, when Ricardinho and Portugal at last beat Spain in an official match, in the final no less, to clinch their first major title.
“They were the best team in the tournament," said Ortiz. "They were practically perfect in every game and they were in great physical shape too." Ortiz doesn't, however, see the upcoming clash as an opportunity for revenge: "If that’s how we see it, then imagine how they feel about all the times we’ve beaten them.
“I think they deserved it for their consistency and for how much they fought,” he said when asked what he remembers from his conversations with Ricardinho about that match, which is well in the past now. Three years on, the two sides will reset and go again, with a semi-final place at stake.
Ortiz is full of confidence. Spain’s excellent first-half performance against Czech Republic in the Round of 16 showed exactly what the 2000 and 2004 world champions are capable of.
“We’re on the up and in fine shape heading into this game,” said the player who will join Barcelona after the tournament. “We did what we had to in the group phase without being at our best, but in the first half of the last-16 tie we were the Spain we want to be: intense, aggressive and very sharp going forward. We took a step forward.”
The defender, who is playing in his fourth World Cup, is aware that this is his last realistic chance to win the trophy, after going close in 2008 and 2012 when Spain finished runners-up.
“In a way, this is the most special World Cup of the lot,” said the 37-year-old, reflecting on his Lithuania 2021 adventure. “It’s the last opportunity I’ll have to be a world champion. I’m living the moment and enjoying every day of it. "There are lots of players here who are probably appearing at their last World Cup, though they might not be aware of it. We have to give our all in every game and training session because we’ve got a great chance to lift the title.”
Ortiz made his 200th appearance for Spain in the pre-tournament warm-up matches, a figure that few players in the futsal world have achieved. Describing the main difference between the player he is now and the youngster who made his debut back in 2006, he said: “Calmness. "I was a lot more emotional before, a lot more fiery, more anarchic in a way. Now, with the experience I’ve got and the games I’ve played, I’m a lot calmer and I think things through more.”
That coolness under pressure will be vital to Spain’s chances. “I think Morocco have probably got less of a chance, but all the other teams who have got this far can go on and win it,” explained Ortiz, who was reluctant to pick out a favourite: “There’s very little between the teams. They’ve all improved as the tournament’s gone on and they can all give you a real test. The quarter-finals are going to be great to watch.”
Explaining the key to success in this final decisive week, Ortiz said: “The team that makes the fewest mistakes and performs best in defence. It’s vital you don’t have any injuries. The World Cup could come down to that, but it’s wide open right now.” Though he knows he needs to keep his feet on the ground, Ortiz can see himself lifting the trophy on Sunday 3 October, the day he turns 38.
“It would set the seal on my many years in the national team, playing in lots of big tournaments, going to four World Cups,” he said. “It would be the perfect finale. "I’d think of my family, Venancio [Lopez] – the national team coach I’ve spent most time with – and I’d remember all the players I’ve had as team-mates and who had the same dream as me and couldn’t fulfil it.”