The magic left foot; the 1.64m stature; the stunning goals and inspired assists; the dribbling skills you thought only existed in video games. There are many reasons to flag up Portugal's Ricardo Filipe da Silva Braga, alias Ricardinho, as futsal's answer to Lionel Messi.
At the age of 26, he has already won the 2010 UEFA Futsal Cup and ten domestic trophies with SL Benfica. He also enjoyed success abroad with Nagoya Oceans in Japan and in Russia with PFC CSKA Moskva before returning to Benfica in January; Ricardinho is certainly set to be one of the stars of UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 in Croatia from Tuesday, having shone in 2007 in Porto. Here he lists his ingredients for futsal success.
Fast feet, fast head
"The biggest quality a futsal player needs is thinking fast – and executing fast. That makes the difference. There are players who have bags of technique and players who defend well. But if they can't think and execute quickly, they normally won't get the better of their opponents. That's the greatest quality."
Good legs, peak fitness
"The small pitch means fitness is underrated. But futsal is all about sudden stopping, changes of direction and explosive acceleration. You need to work on getting a strong pair of legs and being in good physical shape. You try to be better physically than your opponent and have better skills. Then it's possible to gain an advantage."
Passing the exams
"There aren't 'water-carriers' in futsal nowadays – players who just deliver the ball to a team-mate. More and more, the quality of your passing needs to be high. In a match, you see more than 500 passes per team, so you need to be confident and good over short and long distances. You always aim for perfection."
Attack and defence
"I remember someone telling Joel Queirós – one of Portugal's top players – that he'd be recognised as a great striker but he wouldn't make a mark as an international if he didn't defend. You need top concentration, good positioning and the ability to anticipate movements. You need to think like your opponent – know where he's going. In attack, it's more about improvisation. Scoring goals helps you win, but there's a team working behind the scorer and sometimes that work isn't valued enough."
"Futsal is becoming more and more tactical. You don't see results like 10-2 any more. Teams have improved tactically and differences are not so big. Individual technique can make a difference but so can tactical aspects and strategies in dead-ball situations. As a percentage, I would rate the importance of the tactical side at 60% and you work on that in training.
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