"There's absolutely no one even close to his level," said Jorge Braz of Ricardinho as the Portugal coach spoke to UEFA.com about their UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 bid.
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Having finished fourth in 2014, Portugal seem ready to go one step further at UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 next month, with coach Jorge Braz stating that improve is the key word. UEFA.com caught up with the 43-year-old just before the finals in Belgrade.
UEFA.com: What can we expect from Portugal in Belgrade?
Jorge Braz: Our main objective remains the same as when I took the job: to improve. Having said that, we'll aim to do better than two years ago. My main drive is to improve our quality and our results. In 2012 we were knocked out in the quarter-finals and last time around we reached the semi-finals so if there's a word to define our ambition then that word is 'improve'.
UEFA.com: Portugal will face hosts Serbia and Slovenia in Group A. How do you rate your opponents?
Braz: We're talking about two teams with a lot of individual quality and physical strength. It's true that sometimes in the past we struggled a bit against opponents who imposed themselves on our [smaller players] but we need to focus on our own game rather than worrying about what other are capable of doing. What I can say with certainty is that our first target will be to win both matches and to finish top of the group.
UEFA.com: It's been five-and-a-half years since you replaced Orlando Duarte as Portugal's coach. How do you assess that time?
Braz: First of all I couldn't be more proud of being the Portuguese national coach. These five years have been positive in the sense that we were able to renew and reorganise our team. I think we managed to create a real family with this group of players and that could be crucial in a very important year, with the Futsal EURO and World Cup up for grabs. However, we cannot say it was positive if you look at our results. We could and should have taken something else of all the work we had but I'm sure we will not make the same mistakes as in the past.
UEFA.com: You are known for emphasising the collective instead of the individual but just how important is to have in your team a player like Ricardinho, voted the best in the world in 2015?
Braz: It's decisive! In terms of the game itself there's absolutely no one even close to his level. He's a reference point not only on the pitch but also outside. He's the one everyone looks at and it's great that I'm the only [national] coach able to call on the best player in the world.
UEFA.com: There's a feeling that this might well be Portugal's most complete team ever, with several quality players at your disposal in every position. Do you agree?
Braz: We have been working very hard to achieve that, to be able to trust fully in every single player in our team. The Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) has been doing an amazing job, not only with our senior squad but also with the youth teams – that is the way to go.
UEFA.com: Just how passionate is Jorge Braz about futsal?
Braz: I would say a bit too much! Sometimes I think to myself: "Ok, that's enough. You're spending too much time around futsal." But it's intrinsic to me and because of that it's something that comes natural to me. I just love anything related with futsal, like for instance visiting a futsal school where young kids are just starting to learn how to play the game.