Holders Spain begin their UEFA European Futsal Championship defence on Thursday and coach José Venancio López believes that a new generation of players can keep them on top.
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Spain's current period of football dominance pales next to their monopoly in the small-sided game and on Thursday they start their bid for a fourth successive UEFA European Futsal Championship title and fifth overall.
They begin qualifying round Group 1 against France before taking on Kazakhstan and mini-tournament hosts Azerbaijan, semi-finalists last year, with a place in the 2012 finals in Croatia the target. Although the long-serving Javi Rodríguez and Daniel have retired, the likes of Kike and Luis Amado remain available for José Venancio López − coach for Spain's 2007 and 2010 triumphs − while he is given optimism by the emergence of talents like Pola and Rafa Usín.
UEFA.com: What are your expectations for this European Championship?
José Venancio López: We will obviously try to defend our title. However, our first objective is to qualify for the final tournament.
UEFA.com: Spain have a world-leading futsal league. Where does the national team stand at this stage?
Venancio López: The national team is at a very high level right now, even though we are undergoing a phase of renewal. Some players have ended their national-team career and we have brought in some youngsters. However, we are confident that our future is well secured, because we can count on a large number of young recruits who are doing extremely well in the league.
UEFA.com: What do you expect against Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, two Eastern European teams?
Venancio López: Azerbaijan finished fourth in the last European Championship in their first final tournament. Logically, they are a very strong team and can count on many players with Brazilian roots. The last qualifying match against them will be decisive. We also know Kazakhstan since we played them in the previous qualifying competition. The toughest game will surely be against Azerbaijan.