Skubala Realistic Regarding England Futsal’s WC Qualification Chances

March 29, 2019

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Much has been said about the England national team’s failure to live up to expectations at major tournaments over the last couple of decades, but comparatively, they’ve still fared a lot better than the England national futsal team.

Formed as recently as 2003, England’s futsal team are yet to even qualify for a major tournament, failing most recently to qualify for Euro 2018 in Slovenia behind the likes of Romania, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Despite this, futsal continues to grow in the UK and as it does, so does the level of the England national team.

The team made a statement back in February, when they brought themselves a step closer to the 2020 Lithuanian World Cup, sealing their place in the next round with a game to spare. Victories over Gibraltar and Cyprus catapulted them out of the Preliminary qualifying round and into the main qualifying round, and despite a loss in their final group game against Latvia, England boss Michael Skubala was still pleased by what he saw from his side.

“I’m not sure impressed is the right word! I’m proud of how the players applied themselves, not only in this tournament, but two years leading up to it. In possession I think we were great, and we moved the ball with real purpose which at times was a pleasure to watch!”

Despite some big performances from established international players such as Stuart Cook, Richard Ward and Raoni Medina, Skubala refused to single out individual players for praise as he touched on the importance of having a squad where everyone is able to contribute.

In futsal, every player is key,” he stated, “It’s more tactical than people realise and as a coach you need to be ready to use all 14 players in a game. Each individual plays a part, whether it’s one minute or 40 they play a huge role.”

With just nine seconds on the clock against Cyprus, James Webb’s strike didn’t only provide his side with a dramatic 5-4 win, but also secured their place in October’s main qualifying round, where they’ll take on Hungary, Belarus and host-nation Italy. With just the top two teams from the group advancing to next year’s World Cup in Lithuania, Skubala is well aware of the task that his team faces.

“We know October is going to be very tough. We’re the lowest ranked team in the group but we hope to cause an upset,” claimed Skubala, who went on to cite playing on home soil as one of the main reasons that he makes the Italians group favourites.

With a place at a major tournament that little bit closer now, you would forgive the Three Lions’ boss for getting carried away with dreams of making futsal history, but from the outside, Skubala remained as professional and realistic as ever.

“We’re just looking to take things one round at a time, and Italy is our focus for now. We’ve got to concentrate on that and then worry about other bridges when we come to them.

“One of the big challenges for the England futsal squad is that there’s a mix of professional, semi-pro and amateur futsal players. It can be challenging to get the group together and prepare for these tournaments as it means that some players need to take paid-leave from work in order to play,” said Skubala, before outlying the plans for preparation ahead of the next round.

“We’ll start the international calendar again in August/September and look to fit in a training camp and a friendly before Italy.”

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Author: Dan Grimes

Dan is a Sports Journalism student and Spurs fan in the final year of his degree at the University of East London. He has a particular interest in writing about football and futsal and has produced content for a variety of sites and blogs. He also plays in goal for his University's futsal team.

Twitter @DanGrimes__

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