Belgium may be on a run of losses as they prepare for the UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 draw in Antwerp on Friday, but spirits are high in the home camp ahead of the finals from 28 January.
Preparations began in earnest last October with a 4-4 draw against the Netherlands, who were to qualify earlier this week, and three months later they held France 2-2. The next month they visited future finalists Romania, losing 5-2 and 4-3, having been three up in the latter game through one goal by Ahmed Sababti and two from Omar Rahou.
Coach Alain Dopchie, who was assistant to Benny Meurs last time Belgium qualified in 2010, said: "Our first half was the best I have seen since I became coach of this team. We must not forget Romania are higher than Belgium in the world rankings. When I saw their huge joy after their victory, I knew my team had gained their respect."
Even tougher tests were to follow, as in August they travelled to Brazil and were beaten 5-1 and 6-1 by the world champions. Then this week they visited European title-holders Spain, falling to 5-2 and 8-2 defeats in Ceuta.
In Spain, Dopchie tested some relatively new players in his squad, including Karim Bali, Betinho, Ilias El Attabi and Gil Claes. "To give other players a chance is positive, so they can also learn the drill," the coach said. "The EURO is still a bit away, but the whole team is already working fully towards that tournament, as we want to be very strong there. We really also want to show that futsal is really thriving in Belgium.
"It is a unique opportunity. This will become an event one does not want to miss. As automatically qualified hosts we now can meet with the best European teams. It will also be an unique opportunity to promote this sport."
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