Pito: Brazil are the favourites wherever they go
Pito agonisingly missed out of the last FIFA Futsal World Cup
He is eager to help Brazil claim redemption
"Fans can't afford to miss it."
One of Pito’s main attributes is his strength of character, as he showed in brushing off his omission from the Brazil squad for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016™ after featuring in the qualifiers. “My main virtue is that I’m always happy,” he told FIFA.com, a broad smile stretching across his face. “And why wouldn’t I be happy? I’m doing what I love most, I get paid for it, and I’m always discovering and enjoying new places. I’m never anything but happy.” The 29-year-old was indeed all smiles in an interview in which he explained what it meant to be making his World Cup debut and discussed his aims for the tournament, the teams Brazil will face, and the player who has made the biggest impact on him in his career.
Brazil kick off their FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™ campaign against Vietnam in the city of Klaipeda on Monday, a vital encounter for a side keen to erase memories of their penalty-shootout defeat to IR Iran in the Round of 16 five years ago. “When you play for Brazil you’ve got that obligation to make sure the team’s in the hunt for the title,” said Pito. “You have to give it 100 per cent the whole time.” Brazil have won five of the eight Futsal World Cups held to date, losing only three matches in regulation time in their entire history: to Hungary and USA at Netherlands 1989 (the first World Cup and a tournament they went on to win), and the final against Spain at Guatemala 2000. Their other knockout defeats, against La Roja at Chinese Taipei 2004 and IR Iran five years ago, both came on penalties. “Brazil are favourites wherever they go,” explained Pito. “After all, we are one of the best teams in the world.”
Lithuania 2021 will give Pito the chance to make up for the disappointment of being overlooked for Colombia 2016. “Playing at the World Cup is reward for the great season I’ve had," said a man now firmly established in the Brazil side. "It’s a dream to be able to play in it and help my country, and I’ve been thinking about it since the start of the season. I played in all the qualifying matches for the last World Cup but didn’t make the finals.” Reflecting on what it will mean to represent his country on the biggest stage of all, Pito adopted a more serious tone: “A lot of things will be going through my mind, like how hard I’ve worked and how much I’ve put into getting this far. I’m going to enjoy it, but at the same time I’ll be giving it my absolute all on the court. I want to put into practice everything I’ve done and everything that’s worked for me in making it here.” Colombia 2016 showed that the gap between the supposed big guns of futsal and the rest of the world is smaller than ever. Such has been the overall improvement in standards that Argentina, Brazil, Portugal and Spain are not the red-hot favourites they once were. “Every national team watches videos now," said Pito. "They study the opposition and they know the tricks you do and how you play.”
Asked if there is any point in training and trying to catch opposing sides off guard when they study every move you make, he replied with a trademark smile: “You have to train even harder. You have to live and breathe futsal so you can make things happen on the court.” Even so, and as he pointed out, futsal still has its tournament favourites: Spain, Russia, Portugal… There are a good few of them, though it’s hard to single any one team out.” When it was pointed out to him that he had forgotten to mention Argentina, Brazil’s arch-rivals and the reigning world champions, Pito said: “They’ve always been the team we want to beat. They look in really good shape and they’ve got a really exciting plan for the future. We lost to them in the final of the qualifiers for Lithuania. It’s always a tough game against them.” The one and only Falcao Brazil will be without Falcao in Lithuania, the futsal legend having called time on his international career after his side’s elimination at Colombia 2016. An avid admirer of his, Pito has special memories of sharing a court with him. “He set me up for my first international goal," recalled Pito. "I’ve never told him, but I know that he knows that because there were jokes about it in the dressing room afterwards. It’s an honour for me to have played for Brazil with him.” Signing off with a message for all the fans who will be attending the games in Lithuania, the happy-go-lucky Pito said: “The matches are going be fascinating and fantastic. The best futsal teams in the world will be there and the fans can’t afford to miss it.” Singling out one team above the rest, he added: “They have to support Brazil too. They can’t miss the joy and competitive spirit we have. We are very committed.