Turkey coach Ömer Kaner says his players "have made history" after progressing past the UEFA European Futsal Championship preliminary round in their debut in the small-sided game.
It was only on 13 December that Turkey played their first futsal international, losing 7-3 to Romania in a friendly. Thirty-six days later, with six defeats to their name, Kaner's team travelled to Finland for preliminary round Group A, and promptly beat Albania 6-3, held the home side 5-5 and overcame Armenia 5-2, finishing above the Finns on goal difference. Kaner told uefa.com: "Our national team is a product of three months' preparation and, if you ask me, our players have made history by advancing past the preliminary round of the first official competition they have entered."
Kaner explained how he put together his squad, including former football international Ümit Davala, in such short a time, despite Turkey not having a futsal league, though one may be set up in 2007/08. "Following trials in Belgium and Turkey we picked some players and formed our team," he said. "We played friendly games against teams like Romania, Azerbaijan and Belgium who have a good reputation in futsal. Although we did not get what we wanted in terms of results, our performance was positive. Our display in losing to Belgium was an especially good signal for the future."
The 55-year-old trainer added that the friendlies did not equal the actual experience of competitive futsal in Finland. "In the first game, we made a brilliant comeback from 3-1 down and won 6-3 against Albania," he said. "This increased the motivation of our players. Finland, who hosted that round, then used their advantage and although we were 5-3 up two minutes from time, they managed to clinch a draw. As a result, we had to get a victory from our final match against Armenia. We achieved that and finished the group at the top without a defeat."
Turkey will also be in Group A in the qualifying round, but among their rivals for a place in the finals in Porto will be 2003 champions and 2004 FIFA Futsal World Cup finalists Italy, who stage the group in Martina Franca, as well as France and Belarus from 23-26 February. Kaner said: "Of course they are strong teams. We have watched Italy and now we have to examine the others in more detail."
Despite the strong opposition, Kaner is optimistic. "What makes me happy is that we are really a team now," he said. "The players are trying to play as a unit and support each other. If we continue to follow this style, there is no reason to fail. Turkish youngsters are talented and adapt quickly to tactics. Why can't we create another surprise in this round too?"
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