Despite having been sidelined with injury since the start of the season, SL Benfica captain Arnaldo Pereira has been included in the Portugal squad for the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 finals in Croatia.
With 148 international appearances and 83 goals to his name, coach Jorge Braz has deemed the 32-year-old winger indispensible to the Portugal cause even though Pereira underwent a back operation as recently as mid-November and has not played since.
Braz has named an experienced 14-man squad that also includes goalkeeper João Benedito, Gonçalo and Joel Queirós, all of whom boast over 100 caps each and were in the side that finished runners-up two years ago in Hungary. Portugal's leading light Ricardinho, who has been loaned back to Benfica from Japanese side Nagoya Oceans, will be determined to make an impact after missing out in 2010 through injury.
"First and foremost, we are concerned about the game against Azerbaijan," said Braz. "They can trouble any side. Then we'll worry about Serbia. We will keep thinking game by game, in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, which is where we want to be.
"Portugal are clearly one of the best teams but there are other strong contenders for the title like Spain, Russia – who are much-improved and well-organised – and Italy, with their traditional approach."
Portugal face Group D opponents Azerbaijain in Zagreb on 1 February before entertaining Serbia four days later at the same venue.
Goalkeepers: João Benedito (Sporting Clube de Portugal), Bébé (SL Benfica), André Sousa (A. Académica de Coimbra)
Defenders: Gonçalo (SL Benfica), João Matos (Sporting Clube de Portugal)
Wingers: Arnaldo Pereira (SL Benfica), Bruno Coelho (SL Benfica), Marinho (SL Benfica), Ricardinho (SL Benfica), Paulinho (Sporting Clube de Portugal), Pedro Cary (Sporting Clube de Portugal), Ricardo (AR Freixieiro)
Pivots: Joel Queirós (SL Benfica), Cardinal (PFC CSKA Moskva)
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