No. 34: Brazil extend win streak to 17 years on pitch

Brazil’s football 5-a-side team won the Copa America in a penalty shoot-out, as Jefinho scored 12 goals in the tournament. 28 Nov 2013
Brazil football 5-a-side

Brazil's football 5-a-side celebrates after defeating France for the gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

ⒸGetty Images
By Mark Ridgway | For the IPC

“This generation has won everything and we have to keep this level to get the gold medal in Rio 2016. The pressure will be huge and we have to be prepared.”

When Brazil lifted the Copa America in September, it was no great surprise. After all, they were the favourites.

Yet it is the legacy they continued which is truly remarkable.

That latest success meant the Brazilians have not lost a major football 5-a-side international tournament since 1996.

The Brazilians scored a remarkable 31 goals in the tournament, with Jefferson da Conceicao Goncalves, better known as “Jefinho,” topping the chart with 12 of them.

Of the top five goal scorers in the tournament, three were Brazilian, but Jefinho, who was branded the best player in the world, was the one everyone wanted to speak to.

“The reaction after the Copa America was great,” he said. “Everyone was expecting us to win the gold medal, and thankfully everything went well.

“I was congratulated by everyone – teammates and friends – for scoring 12 goals and finishing at the top. The media since have been great. I had to give so many interviews about my achievements.

Keeping his feet on the ground was his coach, who was delighted to lead his team to yet another successful tournament victory in Santa Fe, Argentina.

“Our goal was not on individual award, but the title,” said Brazilian head coach Fabio Vasconcelos, who was the team’s goalkeeper at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

“I was pleased with Jefinho, but it was a team effort. Jefinho and Ricardinho are phenomenal. We always expect their goals, but having the top scorers is only a consequence of our good work as a group.

“I am very happy with the conquest. We reached our goal by winning the cup, but we have to get better to win the World Championships next year.”

It wasn’t just Brazil who gained admirers during the summer, with Argentina coming second and Paraguay finishing in third, after beating Colombia on penalties.

Jefinho said: “I can see a huge progression of the teams at this level, especially from the Mexican squad. Also the smaller teams, such as Peru and Columbia, improved their squads too. The technicalities and tactics level of the whole tournament has increased and we have to keep training hard, we can’t stop.

“This year’s American Cup was harder than in 2009. It was more challenging to get behind the defences, and the attackers were more dangerous, too.”

Brazil needed a penalty shoot-out to get past host nation Argentina in the final, but ended up as victors yet again.

Since the Copa America, the Brazilians have only trained together once, as the players are now with their clubs. But they’ll soon be reunited to focus on next year’s World Championships.

“Obviously our target for 2014 is the gold medal at the World Championship, but it won’t be easy,” Vasconcelos said.

“I saw the European Championships, and the squads are really strong. Spain and France have great players; we have to be prepared for playing against them. Turkey are dangerous, too. They have improved a lot, but we will be prepared to win this competition again.”

Jefinho, though, is confident Brazil can keep rolling on the pitch.

“I expect to get better every time, and to be at my peak during the World Championships,” Jefinho said.

“This generation has won everything and we have to keep this level to get the gold medal in Rio 2016. The pressure will be huge and we have to be prepared.”