Possibly the most famous European futsal player of his generation, Ricardinho is now back with Japanese club Nagoya Oceans but it will be the shirt of Portugal that he wears in Thailand this November in the FIFA Futsal World Cup.
The draw was held today in Bangkok with Portugal, hoping to better their run to the 2000 semi-finals, in a group against holders Brazil. Ricardinho made his own World Cup debut four years ago in Brazil and since then the 26-year-old winger has helped Portugal to the UEFA Futsal EURO 2010 final, won the UEFA Futsal Cup two months later with SL Benfica, then embarked on an international odyssey that took him to Nagoya, MFK CSKA Moskva, back to Lisbon and now the Oceans again.
In February he was in the Portugal team beaten by Italy in the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 quarter-finals and that disappointment is something that will spur them on this autumn. "Myself and I think all the players, we were a bit disillusioned because we wanted more, we wanted at least to make the final," Ricardinho told UEFA.com.
"We didn't reach the final against Spain as we lost against Italy once again, we've played them many times before, so for us it was a bad moment. But now at the World Cup in Thailand we want to turn it into a positive."
Portugal are yet to win a major competition, probably the strongest futsal nation without such an honour, and Ricardinho is cautious about their chances. "We can win but we aren't favourites," he said.
"The favourites are Spain, Brazil, Russia, because they have already won trophies. We haven't, so we have the potential and we have a great reputation, but we have to work step by step to get as far as possible, and only then can we win."
Ricardinho will certainly have experience of playing in Asia thanks to his time in Nagoya but he does not see location as a big factor in the World Cup. "It's difficult, there is a big time difference, but I think you can adapt," he said. "The ball still rolls and everyone wants to play, right? Everyone works for a long time to be in these competitions, and then when there we can't fall short. You always have to work to be at your best, and only that way can you reach your highest level."
As for playing club futsal in Japan, he mused: "It is very different. The league is not as strong as in Portugal or Spain, for example, but they have great players there, Brazilian players too, a Spanish coach, but it is completely different. A very fast game, less tactical you could say, but a nice experience."
In Russia he had another novelty to get used to, the league's unique system of playing lengthened 50-minute games instead of 40. "It is more exhausting," he said. "Every time you think you are reaching the end of the match, there are still five minutes left to play, and you have to get used to that. So you have to train a lot each day and work hard to be able to perform very well during the games."
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