Spain have been something of a nemesis for Italy in recent years – in futsal as well as in football.
At UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 in Croatia, Italy fell 1-0 in the semi-finals to the holders, and later that year at the same stage of the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Thailand it was 4-1 to Spain, who had also beaten the Azzurri in the last four in 2008, not to mention the 2004 final and the 2007 European decider. As he prepares to lead Italy in UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 main round Group 1 – against Finland, Montenegro and Hungary in Bari and Andria from Wednesday – coach Roberto Menichelli talks about their hopes and their Spain rivalry.
UEFA.com: What are Italy's hopes ahead of qualifying?
Roberto Menichelli: We hope to do well and qualify for the next Futsal EURO. We have had a good season. We won the bronze medal at the last Futsal EURO in Croatia, then the bronze at the Futsal World Cup in Thailand. But in sport it's always important what you do afterwards, not what you have achieved. So we hope to do well.
UEFA.com: What have you learned from your experiences, for example the World Cup in Thailand?
Menichelli: A lot, because the game itself, being on the bench, training with the players, is a continuous process of updating – because the game always throws up new situations. So for us it's also a continuous improvement of our standards.
UEFA.com: Can Italy catch up with Spain?
Menichelli: I don't know. It's difficult but we are following our path. You have to recognise that the Spanish national team are the dominant team, they're a reference point in futsal. So we hope we can compete with them one day. We haven't managed to beat them so far, but our matches against Spain are mostly very even, although at the end the Spanish have always won.
UEFA.com: How much has the EURO improved in recent years?
Menichelli: A lot. I didn't play in a Futsal EURO as a player, but I played in the World Cup in 1992 in Hong Kong. I've participated at many EUROs since as assistant coach and now head coach. I have to say that since my playing days, the quality of play has advanced a lot. That is down to the education of coaches, which has become more and more important, and also down to the players who have become better at international level too.
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