Reaching the UEFA Futsal EURO 2010 final was a breakthrough for Portugal but also the end of an era as Orlando Duarte ended his decade-long reign as coach. Assistant Jorge Braz took over and masterminded a successful 2012 qualifying campaign. As he awaits the finals draw on 9 September, Braz spoke to UEFA.com about their aims for Croatia.
UEFA.com: How have you enjoyed being in charge instead of assistant?
Jorge Braz: I always said the transition was easy because Orlando had done a great job before. I worked with Orlando for a few years. I learnt a lot with him. He did a great job with the national team. He is maybe the main person responsible for developing futsal in Portugal with the national team. So it is easy to take over a team that is organised and that has quality and I'm just trying to continue that work and to take it to the next level.
UEFA.com: This year you have drawn twice with both Brazil and Spain as well as comfortably qualifying for Croatia – would you say things are on track?
Braz: Yes, it was a good year in terms of goals achieved, but I always say that we only got one point in each of these games. The main goal was to prepare ourselves and get better and better for the official tournaments, so in that sense these matches were good, they were interesting games, not only with Spain and Brazil, also with Japan and Romania, so the results were very positive. But that was already part of last season, now we have to think of this season, we have important things to achieve and that's the priority.
UEFA.com: How much has the success of SL Benfica and Sporting Clube be Potugal in the UEFA Futsal Cup boosted the confidence of the national team?
Braz: A lot, as many of our players come from these teams and if they play important international games it is good for us, so that helps us. We try to have more and more teams involved at a high level and that is very important for the development of futsal in Portugal.
UEFA.com: Unusually one of your key players, Ricardinho, has been playing away from Iberia in Japan and Russia: has that caused any problems, or has it even helped him?
Braz: It was difficult for Ricardinho to travel from Japan for training camps of three days, but he wants to be here and play for the national team. He has the quality and the motivation to play with the national team, so for me that is the most important thing. He was named best player of the world, so I've already told him, even if you don't feel OK, you can always bring something to the team.
UEFA.com: Is it an advantage or a disadvantage to have players involved in leagues abroad?
Braz: As long as they play in professional and competitive leagues, they will benefit from it and progress as players. I just hope they have a lot of difficulties, a lot of difficult matches, every weekend they play, that is what I want. I always say I hope it is very hard for you, because it is the best way to improve and then you will bring that to the national team too. That is what we wish for players like Ricardinho or Cardinal who are involved in other leagues. I think that is usually an advantage, depending on the quality of the league they play in.
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