José Venancio López hopes to win his fourth European title as Spain coach next year and, as qualifying begins, he spoke to UEFA.com about key retirements and growing competition.
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When José Venancio López took over as Spain coach in 2007, the Iberian side were already reigning European champions. Since then, he has maintained the tradition of success, going on to add three more consecutive continental titles.
He hopes to make it five at UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 in Antwerp, but first his side must negotiate main qualifying round Group 4 in Aguilas from Wednesday onwards – with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Sweden and 2012 semi-finalists Croatia in their way. Venancio López, whose side were denied by Brazil for the second FIFA Futsal World Cup running last autumn in Thailand, spoke to UEFA.com about growing competition for their crown and the retirement of key players.
UEFA.com: What do you expect from the upcoming qualification matches?
José Venancio López: Even though you have to respect Sweden and FYROM, and no opponent is easy, I think we are superior and we can win. Then [the game] against Croatia will be a key game for automatic qualification. We know it will be difficult, because not only do they have good players but experienced ones in big tournaments, both at club and national team level. They know how to compete and have played the game at a good level. They reached the semi-finals in the last European Championship. It will be difficult, but I believe we can win. Even though we have been better in the past, we still need to show it on the pitch.
UEFA.com: How do you see the future of the team, with important players like Luis Amado and Kike having retired?
Venancio López: They are important players. They are living legends of the team, world champions twice [in 2000 and 2004]. They've been part of the historic moments of this team. However, for everyone there comes a time when you have to make way for young players, who are coming on strong. We have young players with a lot of ambition and desire. In that sense we can be relaxed, because the future looks bright in terms of the competitive level of this team.
UEFA.com: UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 was special for Spain ...
Venancio López: Especially because of how the final [against Russia] went. We were losing the game with not much time left, but in the end we were able to get the equaliser with 30 seconds left. That makes the title even more valuable.
UEFA.com: Are teams like Russia, Italy, Portugal and even Croatia catching Spain up?
Venancio López: Yes, I think this is one of the key elements. Many people tell me that we are exporting our knowledge, which as a result helps others approach our standard. I think that's key for us. We have to help others improve, because we improve that way as well. We also have to give back to futsal what it has given to us. It serves as an element of motivation for us; it helps us. It's good that the rest are improving, because then we have to push ourselves too.
UEFA.com: What are your favourite memories of the European Championships you have been involved in?
Venancio López: The one in 2007, in Porto, which was the first one. It was my first title. We had some difficulties in the semi-final [against Portugal]. We were losing 2-0 with five minutes left. It was a critical moment. Titles give you credibility, so that was an important moment.