Vic Hermans is one of the most respected futsal coaches in the world but this week brings one of his biggest challenges yet as he leads Malta for the first time in competitive action.
Hermans, who as a player inspired the Netherlands to the first FIFA Futsal World Cup final in 1989, stepped down as coach of his home nation in 2009 after eight years and then took charge of a Malta side whose record from three major tournament qualification campaigns reads played nine, lost nine. Yet they recently earned a first ever win, against Palestine in Libya, and Hermans wants a maiden competitive victory as they host Lithuania, Bulgaria and France in UEFA Futsal EURO 2013 preliminary round Group D, starting on Friday in Cospicua.
"I think that futsal in Malta has improved a lot," Hermans told UEFA.com. "This is clearly evident from the interest and feedback coming back from clubs and players alike, which is much higher than ever before. The recent Futsal Coaching Course was also a great success and at the moment Malta has 40 licensed coaches. I do hope that I will see all this development reap its rewards both with the clubs and the players themselves."
Hermans has a realistic approach to this week's qualifiers. "Malta have never won a game in a EURO qualification group before," he said. "If we can just register one win I can regard this as a big success. All three teams stand higher than us in the UEFA rankings, they have more experience as well. In Libya we won our first ever international match – 3-1 against Palestine – and in Switzerland during the recent four-nation tournament, the team showed that they are continuing to improve. Who knows, maybe we can come up with a surprise result in the forthcoming EURO 2012 qualification group. But it will be difficult."
That was proved by their run of defeats in Libya prior to beating Palestine. "There were various reasons," Hermans said. "The 11-day stay in Libya was too much for the players and I also had great difficulty in putting up a 13-man squad for the tournament, due to the work commitments of some of the players who could not be released. Other nations had a squad of 15. To play six competitive matches in eight days you need a very fit and a full squad of players. What happened during all of our defeats came from the fact that my squad and my players were not in a position to keep up the momentum of the game until the end.
"For example, against Bosnia and Herzegovina we lost 8-1 yet at half- time there was still all to play for at 2-1! We led Tunisia 1-0 at half-time then lost 4-1, and so on. But credit to all my players against Palestine – they fought for every ball." Malta will have home advantage in the EURO group, though, and tournament director Mark Borg said: "[This] is yet another opportunity to promote futsal development in Malta, so apart from hoping for positive results for our team, I hope that this tournament will help us boost the popularity of the game of futsal in Malta."
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