Robert Lupu is one of a core of players who have been in Romania's futsal team ever since it was set up in 2003 and now is set for his, and their, second major tournament. Having qualified and performed impressively at UEFA Futsal EURO 2007, Sito Rivera's side kick off the 2012 finals against hosts Croatia on 31 January in Split, and the 29-year-old Lupu spoke to UEFA.com about the team's strengths and hopes.
UEFA.com: The Romania was only formed in 2003; are you surprised at how far you have come since then?
Robert Lupu: No, not at all. I would even say that we should have been ranked even higher than we are now. Our players have the necessary ability, as we proved [in 2009] when we finished third at the Grand Prix in Brazil. Nobody can deny the big contribution of our former head coach, Zoltán Jakab, with whom we achieved our previous qualification.
UEFA.com: Romania reached the finals in 2007 with a number of the players who are in the current squad. Will that experience help?
Lupu: It can only have a positive impact. There are few new players, but the basis of our national team are the long-serving players, who have been in the squad since the very beginning. Unfortunately, we do not not have so many players to pick from. Some play abroad, there are also some clubs which disappeared and some of their players could not find new teams, so that they ended up quitting futsal as well. Under those circumstances, the coaches were forced to use the same older players but we are well used to playing together. It is also good that the coach Sito Rivera worked with us at City'us [Târgu Mureş], so that we all, as a team, know each other. Otherwise, it would have been a little more difficult to understand each other.
UEFA.com: Can you get past the group stage this time?
Lupu: As I said, I am confident. Of course, it is a most difficult group. Croatia have become a force at this level and we were only able to beat them once at their place in a friendly match, and only because we played perfectly, as futsal has to be played. The Czechs regularly qualify for EUROs and FIFA Futsal World Cups, but we are going to Croatia only in order to progress. OK, we are third seeds, but we would not be happy at all with third place.
UEFA.com: What is Romania's main strength?
Lupu: Our team play. Most teams are play a direct game without paying so much attention to combinations and passes. We have as our main philosophy possession and repeated passes. From my point of view, modern futsal means possession, dominating the opposition through combinations and passes and counterattacks.
UEFA.com: Are you looking forward to taking on the hosts? It should be a cracking atmosphere...
Lupu: I know that there will be 10,000 Croatians in the stands, but be sure that there will also be several hundred Romanians, who are also noisy. We love playing in front of big crowds. We are used to playing in front of full houses in Romania but in Croatia we will only have a few fans, which is something different. It is only in such a hostile environment that the quality of a player shines through. If you cannot stand up to pressure like that, you are not good enough to play at such tournaments. We are really looking forward to it.
UEFA.com: Given the age of some of the Romania players, is there a sense that this is this team's last shot at a trophy before people start to retire?
Lupu: Not at all. Players who have a healthy life and train well can play even at 35. When I was 27, I played in Spain with players who were over 30 and it was difficult for me to keep up with them. That's why I think that we will be able to play at least one more EURO and a World Cup. But this does not mean that we will be holding anything back. We will go for it in Croatia.
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