When Mohamed Attaibi scored with just over one minute to go in September's play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina to take the Netherlands to UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 on away goals, his senior finals debut was to have extra resonance.
Last June, the forward moved south of the border to join Futsal Topsport Antwerpen, who are based in the city that is staging this tournament. However, when Attaibi struck again in the Netherlands' opener with Russia at the Lotto Arena on Tuesday it was not joy unconfined, as his team were already six down and were to succumb 7-1.
Another defeat by Portugal on Thursday would mean the Netherlands become the first team to be eliminated, and Attaibi knows the odds are against them having in the last few days lost a friendly 6-0 in Spain then been beaten by Russia. "We played Spain last week and now Russia, and I think they will play against each other in the semi-final," Attaibi told UEFA.com. "For us it will be a learning experience again [against Portugal], I hope we will do better."
The Netherlands' last finals appearance was in 2005, when they also opened by losing to Russia on their way to a group stage elimination. But while the 25-year-old Attaibi is making his bow in a major senior tournament, he – like three of his squad-mates – experienced the experimental 2008 UEFA European Under-21 Futsal Tournament in St Petersburg, where the Dutch lost to Ukraine and Spain but beat Kazakhstan.
"I played in the U21s in Russia in 2008 and now for the first time for Holland [in a senior finals]. It is already good that we are here," Attaibi said. "We are going to try and do our best and maybe we will win against Portugal and then maybe we will be through."
Still, from the moment he scored to take the Netherlands to the finals, Attaibi has been able to build up to the event here in Antwerp, where the anticipation has been high – as shown by the packed crowd for the opening night on Tuesday when Belgium against Romania followed the Dutch's game.
"A lot of people came out, and in the play-offs I scored the deciding goal to play here so it is already good and we are just trying to do our best," Attaibi said. "It has been great. For the last couple of months there was a lot of talk about it, so living here it was really nice."
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