José Venancio López struck a confident note as he considered Spain's bid for a fourth straight European futsal title, though he is not underestimating group opponents Slovenia and Ukraine.
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Spain begin their bid for a fourth straight UEFA European Futsal Championship title – and third under José Venancio López – against Slovenia in Zagreb on 31 January. Venancio López spoke to UEFA.com about their Group B opponents and reflected on the challenge of maintaining Spain's supremacy.
UEFA.com: What do you make of your opponents Slovenia and Ukraine?
José Venancio López: Well, it is clear that we are the [group] favourites, and that we have to reach the quarter-finals, which is our first objective, but the biggest challenge is to become European champions again. Our goal is to try and be European champions for the fourth consecutive time, which would be historic. But it is also true that we have to take things step by step, so first to qualify for the quarter-finals.
And even though this group is negotiable, you have to consider that Ukraine have a lot of experience. They've played in all the previous tournaments, and have been finalists twice. They have a way of playing that is very successful, and they are dangerous on the counterattack. That is why we have to be extra attentive for the game against Ukraine, because it could present us with serious problems for qualification.
Slovenia should be the more straightforward opponents, but it will never be easy. They made it very difficult for Italy in the qualifying round, they only lost 2-0 while Slovenia had their chances in the game. I think their squad has been steadily growing in recent years. It is clear that in a competition like this it is possible to make mistakes in any game so we know that it will be very difficult.
UEFA.com: How important is it to still have experienced players like Kike and Luis Amado?
Venancio López: Well, I think they are two players with a lot of experience, and they bring a lot of weight to the team. But we put the emphasis on the collective, the team, the group as a whole, and that is key. We also have other players who are growing in experience, and who have played their share of international games, like Torras, Fernandao, and also young players who have joined the squad recently, and they have a lot of talent. I hope they will also do important things in this European Championship.
UEFA.com: What makes Spain so strong?
Venancio López: I think it's the work that is being done in the youth ranks. That is very important. Another aspect that I consider crucial is the high standard of Spanish coaches.
UEFA.com: Do you see a connection between the success of the Spanish football team and the futsal team?
Venancio López: Yes, basically [it's about] the development, because many players who later play futsal or football, start off with futsal. And I think the things you learn in futsal are most suitable for players in lower age categories.
UEFA.com: Who will be the biggest rivals for Spain in Croatia?
Venancio López: Well, I think Portugal, Italy and Russia are the favourites against Spain. But it's also possible we'll see some surprises. Like in the last edition of the European Championship, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic reached the semi-finals, and they were surprises. That can happen in this tournament as well.
UEFA.com: What do you think of the host nation, Croatia?
Venancio López: Fantastic. I think that we're talking about a tournament with the best facilities, with two stadiums that are spectacular. So we will try to create a real spectacle in those places, to achieve an important objective, which is to give futsal real recognition.