“I think we still have plenty of room to improve in terms of being calm while defending,”
Following their performance in June’s Cerebal Palsy Football 7-a-side World Championships, Brazil know they are the clear favourites heading into the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, which kicks off Friday (7 August).
Not living up to that expectation would be a disapointment, Brazilian football 7-a-side coach Dolvair Castelli said.
“We will be there with a young team, but we are clearly the frontrunners,” Castelli said. ”Argentina and the United States are also good teams, but we beat them [at the World Championships]. So the pressure will be totally on us, which was not the case in the World Championship. Any result other than the gold medal would be a failure. ”
Brazil breezed through their group during the World Championships, holding their opponents scoreless while striking six goals against each team, including Venezuela and the US. Advancing to the quarterfinals, Brazil also held Argentina scoreless, while their offense netted four goals.
The two teams meet again on Saturday in Toronto. For many on the young Brazilian team, playing closer to home will provide a different experience.
“I am really motivated for Toronto because it will be my first Parapan American Games [and] because I was not on the team in 2007; and in 2011, football 7-a-side was not in the competition programme,” Wanderson Silva de Oliveira said.
At the World Championships, Brazil finished third behind first-place Russia and second-place Ukraine.
During the semifinals against Ukraine, Silva de Oliveira scored Brazil’s lone goal as his team lost 2-1.
“If I had to tell you one lesson we learned, this would be we need to be more efficient,” Castelli said. ”I could see how strong a team we are. We aimed to be in the top three, which we achieved. We are a very offensive, fast-paced team, but we were not able to pull it off against Ukraine.”
Despite the loss, Brazil discovered promising potential in Silva de Oliveira, who was the lone player in the tournament to score against Ukrainian goalkeeper Kostyantyn Symashko and was consequently named to the ”Team of the Tournament.”
“I think we still have plenty of room to improve in terms of being calm while defending,” Silva de Oliveira said. ”We made a few mistakes in this aspect and I know we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to defense. But I think in Rio 2016, we will be ready. ”
The only team in the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games that Brazil did not face at the World Championships is Canada, whom they will meet on 12 August. The medal matches will be on 15 August.
Although Brazil already has a spot in the Rio 2016 Paralympics as the host nation, Castelli wants to see signs this month that his team can come back against Russia and Ukraine stronger at the Paralympics.
“Of course Russia is a bit ahead of us, but I think we are using the right system right now,” Castelli said. ”It is clear to me that we need to improve in some aspects to make this team more efficient. So that will be our goal moving forward. ”
Tickets for the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games are also available on the event website.