Esquerdinha passes to Robinho, who crosses to Eder Lima, who puts it in the back of the net for Russia. This could have been part of a match report of one of the Russia’s goals in the semi-finals of the European Futsal Cup this Thursday against Portugal, which they eventually lost 2-3 (Eder Lima scored twice for Russia). And why is this noteworthy? They are all Brazilian. Strange? Maybe, if we consider that this is a European Cup, but far from being an exception in Futsal European competitions. For this reason, a final between Portugal and Spain, two national teams that didn’t use any Brazilian players is worthy of note, and something unique when looking at the last European finals.
There is no mistake in the headline. During the last two weeks – from the twelve teams that participated in this Euro Cup being played in Slovenia, almost half (five out of twelve) used Brazilian players, with Italy at the top of the list, fielding six Brazilians, followed by Azerbaijan with five, Russia (four), Kazakhstan (three), and Romania (two).
With a total of 20 players, this is the same as saying that there could be four starting squads made up of Brazilian players. In addition, if we exclude the players that were called up but did not play and only consider those who actually played, Brazilians are in fact the most represented nation in this competition.
Looking at the players’ impact, it’s also clear that these Brazilians players have had an important impact in the tournament: of the top five goal scorers, two are Brazilians – Eder Lima of Russia and Douglas Junior of Kazakhstan. The same tendency occurs in terms of assists: Douglas, who leads the table with seven assists, and Eduardo of Azerbaijan with three.
This is obviously a way for national teams to become more competitive and the result has been clear to see. Two of the four teams that reached the semi-finals – Russia and Kazakhstan – had Brazilians.
Spain, who in the past also featured Brazilian players, appeared in this edition without Brazilians. Ironically, the only semi-finalists to have never fielded a Brazilian-born player was Portugal, whose history and shared language would have made them the most likely candidates.
Portugal has been the most impressive team in the competition to this point, having scored almost twice as many goals as Spain (Portugal scored twenty times, Spain eleven). Furthermore, Portugal’s side includes Ricardinho, the best player in the world, who is not only the top scorer in the competition, but also the all-time record scorer in European finals with 21 goals.
However, Spain must be considered favourites, not only because of their history in the competition – they have won five of the last six Euro Cups – but also because Spain has a tremendous advantage in head-to-heads against Portugal, with twenty wins, five draws and one defeat. Spain faced Portugal in the 2010 final of the competition, winning 4-2.
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