Three-time champions Inter FS return to the Futsal Cup this season with Ricardinho and Carlos Ortiz keen to add to the club's trophy haul as the main round beckons.
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More than four years have passed since SL Benfica and Inter FS played out one of the most memorable games in the history of the UEFA Futsal Cup, gifted winger Ricardinho helping the Portuguese giants to a thrilling 3-2 extra-time win in the final.
While 'O Mágico' and his team-mates enjoyed the adulation of the large crowd inside Lisbon's Pavilhão Atlântico, Carlos Ortiz was hit with contrasting emotions, suffering the pangs of defeat along with his Inter colleagues. The two men are now experiencing the same highs and lows, however, with Ricardinho having moved to Spain to join Inter last year – and UEFA.com spoke with both to discuss the club's return to Europe's elite futsal competition.
"For me it was one of the most amazing games I have played in," remembers Ortiz of the 2010 final. "Benfica were very hopeful of winning the trophy. The stadium was full and there was a great atmosphere inside. It was a beautiful match. There was extra time, and some controversy. For us it was a very sad day because we couldn't win, but it was a marvellous day for spectators."
Ricardinho recalls what it was like to be on the winning side that day. "There were over 9,000 people inside the stadium and the fans really helped us. After so many years, Benfica finally won the trophy – 25 April 2010 was a very important day for Portugal. Winning that trophy was very important for everyone. It was spectacular."
This season, fresh from domestic success, Inter return to the tournament they have won three times. "For the club, it is the top competition, the one we want to win more than any other," explains Ortiz, who lifted the trophy in 2009 during his first Inter season. "We have gone five or six years without winning the league and without playing in Europe, so everyone at the club is very excited. But now we have two very difficult qualifying rounds. We are going to try and get past them to get into the final four."
Despite their absence in recent years, Ricardinho knows how important competing in the event is for the Maquina Verde. "I think that when you play in the Inter shirt, the objective is always to go as far as possible," says the player from Gondomar.
"First we have to get past this round, which won't be easy, and then the next round will be even more difficult. We have to get through and then bring the elite round here. The crowd will have to play an important role. All the players are so excited to play in this competition."
The first obstacle en route to the showpiece Inter crave is the main round, with Ricardinho and Co facing a mini-tournament against Lokomotiv Kharkiv (Ukraine), KMN Kobarid (Slovenia) and Hovocubo (Netherlands) between 2 and 5 October. The two sides that finish top of the group will then advance to the elite round, which begins on 18 October.
"We know little about those teams," admits Ortiz. "We believe that each team will play in a similar style to their national team. The Ukrainians are similar to the Russians, but the Dutch are the team we know the least about. The Slovenians, if they have their international players available, will be very difficult. Slovenia have grown a lot in recent years. Futsal is more physical now and we have to get used to that."
With Ricardinho in their ranks, Inter will nonetheless fancy their chances – and Ortiz could not be happier to have the Portuguese international as a team-mate. "I think that he is a step above any player," he says. "He is the best player in the world. He is ambitious and never rests on his laurels. He is an elite player and works his socks off every day.
"He was key to the great season we had last year. He has a rich knowledge of tactics and alarming technique. In every training session he surprises you by doing something different. It is a pleasure to share a dressing room with him."