Under Tomáš Neumann, the Czech Republic's appearance at major futsal tournaments is a given. But at UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 he is aiming for a rare foray into the latter stages.
Neumann took over the national team in 2005 and the finals starting next week in Antwerp follow the sixth successful qualification in as many attempts at European and FIFA Futsal World Cup levels that Neumann has managed – stretching his country's run to ten in all dating back to 2001. However, two of Neumann's three European finals campaigns have ended without a point, their progression to third place in 2010 the impressive exception.
At the 2012 EURO in Croatia, a 5-4 loss to the hosts curtailed the Czech bid in the group phase. They are rematched with the Croatians in Antwerp for their Group D opener next Friday, before facing holders Spain who beat Neumann's side 8-1 in the semis in Hungary four years ago.
"The group is very, very hard," Neumann told UEFA.com. "In the last EURO, Spain became champions and Croatia were fourth. But for us it's a success to play in this championship. We would like to play our best futsal and we will take it step by step.
"Croatia are a very hard team, I saw them in qualification against Slovakia. They have very good players, so for us it's a really tough match. Meanwhile, Spain are the champions. I have no words about Spain, except that they are the [biggest] favourites at this EURO."
Still, the Czechs' wide tournament experience – they made the last 16 at the 2012 World Cup in Brazil before falling to Russia – gives Neumann hope of repeating their run in Hungary, where they knocked out the hosts and former champions Italy before defeating Azerbaijan for third place. "It's good for us, a good experience, that we got to every recent European Championship and World Cup," Neumann said. "The best success we had was in 2010 in Hungary, where we got the bronze medal, and it would be nice to have that sort of success again."
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