09 Jan England Embark on European Futsal Quest
The England Futsal squad arrive at St Georges Park this weekend for their final training camp before they fly out to Malta on Tuesday for the Preliminary Round of the UEFA Futsal Euros. During the training camp this weekend, Pete Sturgess and the England coaching team will be looking to ensure that the squad are in the best possible condition physically and mentally to tackle the challenges that lie ahead in Malta.
Whilst the England team will be buoyed by their increasing success over the past few years on the international futsal scene, the Lions are aware that qualification to the Main Round of the Euros next week is anything but assured. England may have climbed 23 places in the World Futsal Rankings during 2014, the biggest rise of any nation, but they still lie 7 places behind Latvia, arguably their main rivals for superiority in Group E in Malta. As well as Latvia, England will face Andorra and Malta with the top team guaranteed to progress to the next round.
England may feel that they have the psychological edge ahead of this qualifying group having played and beaten both Andorra and Latvia in recent months during friendly matches, but The FA’s head of futsal, Simon Walker is not taking anything for granted:
“The England Team had an excellent 2014, and it is good to see that this has been reflected in the rankings. It was a particularly nice way to end the year beating both Latvia and Andorra, especially considering that they are our direct rivals in the Euro Qualifiers, but those were just friendly games and matches in the competition phase are very different; these are the games that matter. Andorra and Latvia demonstrated in our recent matches that they have some real quality that if we are not focussed, prepared and at the top of our game they will cause us much trouble. We’ll also not be underestimating Malta, they have the home advantage and we played a tight game against them a couple of years ago.”
England qualified for the first time in their history to the Main Round of the Euros in 2013, and the squad will be keen to taste the same success this year. The winners of Group E will head to Bosnia to play against some of the strongest teams in European futsal: Russia, Holland and Bosnia. The England players will be keen to get an opportunity to face such talented opposition.
But as Pete Sturgess (Head Coach) states: “The England squad will be taking it one game at a time focussing on our opponents in Malta and ensuring that we play to the best of our abilities. Malta, Latvia and Andorra will really test us and we must make sure that we go into each game in the right frame-of-mind. It will be an exciting three games, and undoubtedly the best team will win the group and get the opportunity to progress in the tournament. We will do our best to make sure that team is England.”
A big week lies ahead for the England Futsal Team, and the nation will be hoping that the Lions can replicate their success in 2013 and make it through to the Main Round.