Coach Vasil Skenderovski reckons FYR Macedonia can "make history" by qualifying for UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 as they host main round Group 2 from Wednesday.
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FYR Macedonia coach Vasil Skenderovski believes his team can "make history" by qualifying for UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 as they host main round Group 2 from Wednesday.
The Balkan side have fallen at this stage seven tournaments in a row, pipped to the play-offs two years ago, 3-2 by Croatia. But as they face Hungary, Switzerland and Spain – who beat them 5-1 in 2014 qualifying – Skenderovski is hopeful of success in Skopje, with nine survivors from the squad for the last campaign involved.
"We've worked really hard over the last two years, we've progressed technically and tactically, we've upgraded the level of our game, but most importantly the players broke the mental barrier by realising they're capable of winning big games," Skenderovski told UEFA.com. "That increases my optimism and I believe we're now ready to write history."
His team kick off qualifying versus Hungary, a game the 43-year-old coach – in charge since 2002 – sees as "crucial" to their attempt to, at the very least, earn a play-off. "Spain are strong favourites, not only for our group but also the European title, while I expect an easy win against Switzerland, though we're not going to underestimate them at all," Skenderovski said. “But for now, we're focused only on the Hungary game.
"We know we're in for a difficult encounter that will be decided by small details. Hungary are better seeded, they've better individuals, but we're strong as a collective, we will play in front of our fans so we've got nothing to fear."
With ten of his 14-strong squad coming from domestic champions KMF Zelezarec Skopje, FYR Macedonia are a compact mix of experience, led by captain Zoran Leveski and Darko Rangotov, with 76 international goals between them, and youth. Leveski, who has more than 100 caps, said: "Since June we've played 12 friendlies, winning nine and losing just two, so we're in good form."
The matches will be held at the 8,000-seater Boris Trajkovski Sport Centre, a venue synonymous with Macedonian success in recent years. Leveski explained: "These will be our first competitive games in the Boris Trajkovski arena where our national basketball and handball teams wrote history by qualifying for major international tournaments. We'll give our all to continue that."