World Cup 2014: Futsal - the game behind Brazil's superstars

There is a saying in Brazil that a great footballer is born here every day.

A stroll along Rio's breathtaking beaches is enough to show you why they believe that. As far as the eye can see, footballs dance in the evening air, propelled by one deft touch after another.

Alongside the sun-worshippers, towel hawkers, muscle-men and bar-crawlers are boys and girls, men and women, repeating skills and drills, honing their feel for the football, hour after hour.

Tempting as it is to conclude that Brazil's success stems from this carefree childhood practice on the sand, the real reason may lie elsewhere.

In these parts, they believe Futebol de Salao - or futsal - is the game that made Brazil great.

Pele, Zico, Socrates, Romario, Ronaldo, Neymar are just some of the Brazilian national icons who spent their youth playing with the smaller, heavier futsal ball - a ball that could not be lofted into the air, but demanded speed of mind, fleetness of foot, flair and flamboyance.

"Futsal makes you think fast and play fast," Pele said. "You try things, it makes you dribble. It makes you a better player."

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