Alves leads Brazil to semi-finals in Pan Am minifootball World Cup qualifier
Florida Tropics midfielder Rafa Alves is fully recovered from a knee injury that kept him off the pitch for most of the last indoor season, and proved it by being named captain for the Brazilian national minifootball team that recently finished fourth in the 2018 Pan Am Cup competition in Guatemala.
The team's finish assures them of a spot in the 2019 Minifootball World Cup which will be held in Austrailia. The United States also qualified as part of the nine-team event held in mid June.
Minifootball is similar to arena soccer with five players and a goaltender on each side, but it is played outdoors with no boards. The field size is around 90 feet by 150 feet, and instead of changing players one or two at a time on the fly, all five field players are replaced at the same time when a break allows, usually about a four to five minute shift.
Brazil was placed with Costa Rica and eventual tournament champion Chile in their group of three, defeating both, starting with Chile, 4-3, and then Costa Rica by score of 12-0, in the opening round.
In the playoff quarterfinals, Brazil took a 7-1 win over Columbia before falling to Chile 2-1 in the semi finals. In the bronze medal game, Mexico topped Brazil, 3-2.
Alves said the result was very good since the Brazilian team had virtually no practice time together, and other countries had their teams together weeks in advance of the tournament.
“It's a pretty new sport for us,” Alves said about Brazil's involvement. “Other teams like Chile, Mexico, they have 20 years. It was the first time I saw like the coaches and the players, We arrived like one day before and we played Chile, and Chile won the tournament. The Brazil guys, their quality was impressive. But the first and second games, nobody knows the other guys names. We were like, 'hey, give me the ball.' The other teams practiced for like two or three weeks before the tournament.”
Alves joined the Florida Tropics after four strong years in the North American Soccer League, and most recently as a defender for Juventude, a second-division (Serie B) club in Brazil which has also played in past years in Serie A, the country's top league.
He played just one game for Florida last year after coming into the season with an injury. However, in that game, Alves showed he should have a big impact on the Tropics for the 2018-19 season, scoring a goal and making several impressive defensive plays in just 30 minutes of action against the Kansas City Comets.
“This experience in the Pan Am event, and being picked no only to represent his country but be captain of the team, is testament to what his peers think about him both in ability and as a leader,” Tropics coach Clay Roberts noted. “We can't wait to have him available to us at 100 percent when we start our season in December. We expect him to be one of our key players and a leader for us too.”
He appeared in 67 NASL games from 2013-2016, including 35 for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and 32 for the Ottawa Fury. Brazilian teammate Rainer Hauss, a goalkeeper for the Orlando SeaWolves who will join the Major Arena Soccer League this coming season, was named one of the top two netminders in the event.
The Florida Tropics will start their third season in the MASL this winter, with a 24-game home and away schedule starting in very early December. For more information, go to www.fltropics.com.