A year ago as MFK Dinamo lost the final to FC Barcelona in Lleida, a frustrated Aleksandr Fukin was watching from the sidelines but in Tbilisi he will be back and raring to go.
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A year ago, as MFK Dinamo lost the UEFA Futsal Cup final to FC Barcelona in Lleida, a frustrated Aleksandr Fukin was watching injured from the sidelines.
Now the 28-year-old Russia winger is fit and raring to go in this season's showpiece in Georgia, with Dinamo counting down the days until their 26 April semi-final against hosts Iberia Star Tbilisi – with two teams they faced last season, Barcelona and Kairat Almaty, also involved in the event. Fukin spoke to UEFA.com about his disappointment 12 months back and his confidence now.
UEFA.com: What does it mean to you and to the club to return to the final tournament, especially as you didn't play last time?
Aleksandr Fukin: Getting back to the UEFA Futsal Cup means a lot to me and to Dinamo, because it is the most prestigious tournament in the world and it is great to take part in it. Of course I regret missing last season's. I got injured in Russian league action and was really upset at being unable to help my team.
I came with the squad to watch the games from the stands. We won in the semis and played a good final, we played very well, but I guess we were a little bit unlucky [losing 3-1 to Barcelona].
UEFA.com: How do you evaluate your campaign in the elite round, including winning the decisive match against hosts Murcia FS?
Fukin: I suppose I was pretty good if I scored a goal [in the climactic 4-2 victory over Murcia]! I think we hit peak fitness at the end of that tournament, and now we are slowly getting back to that peak. We've played a great number of games, but quite a long time ago, so we are getting prepared for the final tournament and growing in strength from game to game.
UEFA.com: What are Dinamo's key qualities?
Fukin: Probably one strength is that the team are experienced and composed of really top players, both Russian and foreign. Another strength is that the team are fast and all the various players are masters of futsal. I also believe we are successful because we are a team of equal-strength players, each of whom can replace any other at any time.
UEFA.com: Is it easy to switch from 50-minute matches in the Russian competitions to 40-minute ones in Europe?
Fukin: It's quite easy. Whenever we come to Europe for an international tournament, we can easily play 40-minute games instead of the usual 50 minutes. Those ten minutes don't play a big part.
UEFA.com: What do you know of the other three semi-finalists?
Fukin: I know about Barcelona and Kairat, in fact I know them personally since we have already played against them. However I cannot tell you anything about Iberia. I haven't even seen them live, only in a video where they were playing a friendly.