The expansion of the UEFA European Futsal Championship final tournament from eight sides to 12 helped make the competition in Hungary more exciting, believes Vic Hermans, a member of the UEFA technical team.
Hermans, who became Malta coach last year after having previously led his native the Netherlands, has long been a fixture at international tournaments, first as world-class player, then as trainer and technical observer. January's EURO finals in Hungary were the first since an extra four berths were made available in the showpiece and Hermans' initial worries were waylaid.
"There was a feeling that eight teams was not enough, as we had 39 in qualifying, so going to 12 was good," Hermans told UEFA.com. "At the start of the finals I thought the standard wasn't what I expected but in the following games there were very interesting matches. The four groups of three were interesting – that made every game a cup final, and I liked it. We had a couple of countries like the Czech Republic and Portugal who were almost out [in the group stage] but they had to get a result and went for it. That was a success."
Tactically, Hermans noted the increasing use of goalkeepers as part of teams' outfield play. "The Portugal goalkeeper Bebe is a goalkeeper that can play – as a footballer," he said. "Now you see a lot of teams using the goalkeeper to score and control the game. More coaches in future years will do this, also at club level. There are not many [other] very new things but the level of fitness is always increasing, like in football. The game gets faster so you don't see the individual skills quite as much as five years ago."
What definitely did not change was the identity of the winners, with Spain taking a third straight title, their fifth success in seven editions, in which time they have also lifted two FIFA Futsal World Cups. Hermans explained: "After the 1992 World Cup in Hong Kong, Spain began a professional league, they built it into a very strong competition, and one of the other things they get right is the fitness of the team. Their playing style hasn't changed. My opinion is Spain are stronger and others are further away. Russia were the only team that could compare, but Spain have another generation coming through."
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