Portugal knocked out Serbia and Azerbaijan on their way to the 2010 final and as they prepare to meet those nations again in Zagreb, coach Jorge Braz talks to UEFA.com.
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UEFA Futsal EURO 2010 runners-up Portugal kick off their 2012 finals campaign in Croatia next month with Jorge Braz at the helm, his first big tournament since replacing long-serving coach Orlando Duarte. Braz was Duarte's assistant in Hungary last time when Portugal beat Serbia in the quarter-finals then Azerbaijan on penalties to make the decider; those nations await again in Zagreb as Braz discusses their threat with UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: You know your opponents Serbia and Azerbaijan well ...
Jorge Braz: Just as you say, two teams we know, two teams we faced in the last edition. But they are two teams who reached the quarter-finals and the semi-finals, so they are teams with value, with quality, with slightly different characteristics.
UEFA.com: Is it accurate to say that Portugal start off as the big favourites to win the group?
Braz: We assume so. We want to be in the next phase. The question of whether we are favourites or not, that depends on preparation, the quality with which we get prepared for things, that's what I always say. So that's a theoretical question, remembering again the surprise of Serbia beating Russia in 2010, where no one expected it, and [in 2007] drawing with Spain, where no one expected it; these are teams who constantly surprise, so we don't want to let that happen, especially with Serbia.
Azerbaijan, we already know their threat; they're a team with a lot of quality, well organised, with players who have a lot of individual quality. We still have to prepare ourselves even better, and we have to concentrate on beating Azerbaijan this time without the need for penalties.
UEFA.com: How much confidence has reaching the 2010 final given the players?
Braz: I think they are now aware that you can only meet a challenge if you have total dedication. It doesn't reach 100%, but it has to be total dedication. At their clubs, in the work they do during the season, and then when they are here.
UEFA.com: Do you think the step that the Portuguese national team took in 2010 was important in the triumph of Benfica winning the UEFA Futsal Cup that year, and Sporting reaching the final in 2011?
Braz: I even used to say that the national team reflects the work done by the clubs. The great volume of work ends up being done at the clubs, and that merit goes essentially to Benfica and Sporting for the quality of their work, for the quality of their players, the quality of their futsal structures; the clubs deserve great merit. But then here we try to realise the potential.