England's 45-game wait for an international futsal victory is over after a thrilling 8-7 defeat of Greece in the first of a two-match friendly series in Birmingham.
Formed as a futsal team in June 2003, with a 10-2 losing debut against Uzbekistan, England had previously come closest to victory when drawing 5-5 with Cyprus last year, their only positive result in 44 fixtures until now. But that statistic was improved in their first encounter with Greece as both sides continue preparations for FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifiers in 2008.
With England Under-21 football manager Stuart Pearce among the crowd, the hosts began brightly but fell behind to a Sokratis Mourdoukoutas goal in the third minute. Alex Sykes and Jon Adams then put England in front before Stefanos Soilemes equalised. Sykes and Adams both scored again, only for those strikes to be cancelled out by Spiridon Gritzalis and Ioannis Delaportas, before Ilias Bousmpouras edged Greece into a 5-4 half-time lead.
Luke Ballinger levelled immediately after the interval, and although Delaportas restored the Greek advantage, Ashley Allanson nullified it; Ballinger converted a double penalty before Richard Follett made it 8-6 two minutes from time. Bousmpouras's late goal was a mere consolation for the visitors.
A day later, the second match was a lower-scoring affair. Sykes, being watched by pupils at Rednock School where he teaches, broke the deadlock, Mourdoukoutas restored parity yet Sam Tucknott made it 2-1 at the break. England then lost goalkeeper Dean Thornton to a rib injury in the second half and Greece secured a 2-2 draw with ten minutes left.
'A while coming'
Reflecting on the results, England manager Graeme Dell told theFA.com: "At last I can look back and know what it feels like to win a game with these lads. Monday's result was a fantastic achievement by them and although the scenes in the arena with players, fans, friends and families had some resemblance to what you might expect at a World Cup final, it has been a while coming." In World Cup qualifying, England are in Group 4 in Hungary, also involving Poland and F.Y.R. Macedonia, while Greece take on Slovenia, Albania and Group 7 hosts Malta.
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