The team no one wants to get in Friday's UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 finals draw is Spain, winners of the last three editions and the dominant force in the European game since the mid-1990s.
Since taking over just prior to the 2007 finals, coach José Venancio López has kept Spain at the top, winning two European titles and only losing the 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup on penalties to hosts Brazil. Both tournaments are on his mind now; before the European finals in Croatia from 31 January, they enter World Cup qualifying in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in a group also containing Belgium, in mid-December. Venancio López spoke to UEFA.com about taking the team through a change of generations and their immediate plans.
UEFA.com: Who are your biggest rivals at EURO?
José Venancio López: Italy, Portugal, Russia and Spain are the top European futsal teams, without forgetting the Czech Republic and Azerbaijan, third and fourth respectively at the last EURO.
UEFA.com: You have an impressive record at the helm of the Spanish squad...
Venancio López: In 71 matches since I arrived, 63 victories and 8 draws.
UEFA.com: ...does this record put pressure on you?
Venancio López: No, this helps us; it is an extra motivation. Not only on a daily basis, but because we have built a culture of victory, a winning mentality. Our players, regardless of the opponents, enter the pitch as if it was the most important match of their lives. That mentality got us where we are and has brought us the unbeaten record we now hold.
UEFA.com: Several of your stalwart players have retired - how impressed have you been with the young faces like Pola and Rafa Usín?
Venancio López: Pola, Rafa Usín, Sergio Lozano... I think the future of the national team is safe. We showed it last season. We played against the best teams in the world like Italy, Portugal and Brazil. We preserved our unbeaten record, we have managed to beat Brazil away [to win the prestigious Grand Prix] - something very difficult - with a young squad who benefited from it and gained some maturity from the Grand Prix onwards, and this has helped to renew our squad.
It looked like it would be very difficult to replace players like Javi Rodríguez, Daniel or Javi Eseverria after they retired, but we are working on it and that the new young players have shown they have plenty of class and skill. Our domestic league is very competitive. There are now younger and younger players evolving at a higher level and developing quicker and quicker. This means that the young players joining the national squad come with more experience than in the past.
UEFA.com: Is it useful to have World Cup qualifiers so soon before the EURO finals?
Venancio López: The Spanish league has a very busy programme and limits the number of international fixtures we can play, so we don't have many opportunities to get together. Therefore we also need to use it the Worlds Cup games as preparation. Our first goal is to qualify as group winners, but the tournament must also serve as preparation for the European Championships.
*Spain continued their preparations this week with two friendlies at home to Guatemala, winning 10-0 and 4-3.
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