Bruno Xavier holds nothing back when he is on the sand. An illustration of that came barely a minute and a half into Brazil’s defeat of Iran on the opening day of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013. Stationed to the right of the Iranian goal, he called for a long ball from one of his team-mates, manoeuvred himself into position and unleashed a stunning scissor kick to put the Brazilians 1-0 up, celebrating his strike with a loud roar into the night sky.

The Brazilian No8 did not stop there, however. Not content with volleying in a second goal, he grabbed hold of the ball after being brought down for a free-kick in the final period. After placing it on a carefully prepared mound of sand, he raised his arms, urging the fans at the To’ata Stadium in Papeete to make some noise. The crowd responded, lifting the atmosphere a notch or two as the Brazilian ran up and thrashed the ball home to complete his hat-trick and a 4-1 win for his side. Thankful for their part in the goal, the scorer duly dedicated it to the fans.

The 29-year-old wide man did more than just hit the back of the net in helping the Brazilians begin their campaign with a bang. In a display in which he showcased his skill, tactical appreciation and physical strength, he barked instructions at his team-mates, urged them on when necessary and also had a word or two for the Iranians whenever they went in too hard for the ball.

“I love beach soccer. I love playing this sport!” he told in typically passionate fashion after giving his all on the pitch. “This is my first World Cup and it’s a dream come true for me. I’ve been preparing for ten years for this and it’s great to be here. I’m grateful to God that I’m here helping my team on the pitch. That’s what really counts."

This is my first World Cup and it’s a dream come true for me. I’ve been preparing for ten years for this and it’s great to be here.

Bruno Xavier of Brazil

Bruno Xavier formed part of Brazil’s provisional squad in the run-up to Ravenna 2011, but was left out of the final 12-man group by the then Canarinha coach Alexandre Soares. He vowed at the time to make the next FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, a wish that was granted by Soares’ successor, former team-mate Junior Negao, who handed him the No8 jersey.

“I wear it for him and Juninho Pernambucano,” said Bruno Xavier, a rabid Vasco da Gama fan, another passion that the three have in common. “I admire them because of everything they did on and off the pitch. The way they went about things is an inspiration for me.”

Shouldering the responsibility
His new national team coach has had a major influence on his game, as the player explained:  “He’s a winner and he asks us to be focused all the time, from start to finish.”

The hard-fought win over the Iranians provided a fine example of Brazil’s powers of concentration. “We knew it was going to be tough and that we couldn’t afford to switch off,” said Bruno Xavier, who hails from Vitoria. “In the end we were able to play the game at our pace and come away with a win. The opening match is always a tough proposition.”

Tough because nobody gives anything away: “Everyone wants to beat Brazil and they always give their very best against us, which is why we can’t see us having a single easy game, least of all against Ukraine, who’ve got six very talented players, including a great keeper (Vitalii Sydorenko) and a superb forward (Oleg Zborovskyi). We’ll need to be totally focused against them as well.”

Sixteenth on the list of Brazil’s all-time leading goalscorers on sand, with 48 goals, Bruno Xavier is not in any way concerned that Brazil are regarded as favourites, though he does have a different take on their traditional status as the team to beat. “People like Pele, Garrincha, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo have worn this shirt and we’re aware of the responsibility that comes with that. We’ve got 200 million people behind us and every one of the 12 players here knows what we represent. That pressure is a privilege.”

His dream is to see Brazil crowned world champions again, the key to which, in his eyes at least, is their ability to stick together as a unit. “You have to build a group first and then a team. If we’re friends off the pitch, then we can make the difference on it because you’re always going to run hard to help a friend. There’s a positive energy in the team and we’re on the right track.”