Belgium have not won a UEFA Futsal EURO finals game in 18 years but Alain Dopchie says the hosts have what it takes as they prepare to face Romania and Ukraine in Antwerp.
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Belgium's last win at a UEFA Futsal EURO came in the third-place match of the experimental inaugural tournament of 1996 – but 18 years on they have high hopes as hosts.
Having failed to register a victory in 1999, 2003 and 2010, Belgium aim to end that run against Romania in front of a home crowd at Antwerp's Lotto Arena on 28 January. Coach Alain Dopchie, who stepped up from assistant after the 2010 finals, believes his side have a chance in Group A, which also features Ukraine, and feels Belgium have learned from tough friendlies in 2013.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your group opponents?
Alain Dopchie: I think the draw was good for us. We drew Romania and Ukraine, two teams we know well. Romania, for example, we played in a friendly four months ago – so we know their strengths and weaknesses and they know our strengths and weaknesses. Ukraine's more or less the same thing, as we met two years ago in qualifying. On paper the teams in there are the best in Europe, so be it Ukraine or Romania, they're both good sides. We're going to need to fight and play the best futsal we can in order to qualify.
UEFA.com: How important is the opening game against Romania?
Dopchie: What's good is that we're trying to convince people that futsal is a good sport like football. And our aim with this opening match is to show, at least to Europe, that Belgian futsal is a reality. I think that's a big opportunity.
UEFA.com: How would you rate your friendly performances this year, as you have played the strongest teams?
Dopchie: I received the compliments of the Brazil coach, and of [Spain boss] José Venancio López who said to me: "I saw you play two to three years ago and you have improved." I take that as a compliment and I accept it from a man who is a European champion, no less. I don't think he said it just to make me happy – I believe he thinks it and it's nice of him to say that Belgium have come on.
We know we still have to prove it and, above all for me, to prove it in Belgium. So yes, we've played in Brazil and Spain but the people here weren't there to see it. They don't know if we played well or not. Here we have the chance to put into practice what we learned abroad and show it in Belgium.
UEFA.com: How does this squad compare with the one that lost both games four years ago in Hungary?
Dopchie: We have started with a new generation in the two to three years since I've been coach. We gave youth a chance. I think from the last finals in Hungary there must be four or five players. So it will be a good mix with the new generation who will have the chance to play at a good level, and the older guys who are there to help and steer them in the right direction.
UEFA.com: How can Belgium compete with the top teams?
Dopchie: I know it's always tough for Belgium – because it's considered an amateur sport here – to have people available all the time, people who work full time, to play in a national team. So even when we went to Brazil or Spain, it's hard to have a full team.