The Netherlands ended a nine-year major tournament exile to get to Antwerp and coach Marcel Loosveld discusses their chances against Russia and Portugal.
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The Netherlands were runners-up in the inaugural 1989 FIFA Futsal World Cup but when they kick off UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 against Russia in Antwerp on 28 January, it will be their first major tournament game for nine years.
Marcel Loosveld took over as coach from his fellow veteran of the 1989 final against Brazil, Vic Hermans, in 2009 and was only pipped to UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 by Russia and Serbia. This time, the Netherlands came through the play-offs against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mohamed Attaibi scoring 78 seconds from the end in Almere to clinch qualification on away goals. Now up against Portugal as well as Russia, Loosveld spoke to UEFA.com about their chances.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your group?
Marcel Loosveld: It is not the easiest group, that's clear, but let me say we are delighted to be back on this stage and of course we will do our best to get a result out of it. We will prepare and try to play some very good matches – and we are going to enjoy the tournament. That will be very important for us.
UEFA.com: You open the tournament against Russia ...
Loosveld: They are obviously a really experienced and a very good team – we played them in China [in June], losing 1-0. It will be tough. We were looking for something different in the group of course. [Portugal] are not the easiest team either, but it's the same as Russia: we will prepare and try to get a result out of it. We are confident, we are here and we are going to enjoy the tournament and try to get results.
UEFA.com: With the Dutch playing close to home, are you expecting many supporters to travel to Antwerp?
Loosveld: Yes, of course, we expect a lot of Dutch fans, and a lot of Belgian, which will be good. For me it's just an hour's drive from here to get home, so there will be a lot of people supporting us here in Antwerp. It would have been great if there had been a group fixture between Belgium and Holland – we were waiting for it – but it didn't happen.
UEFA.com: Talk us through your dramatic play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina ...
Loosveld: It was a great match, very exciting. I think over the two matches we were the better team and deserved it. You ask me now, it was close, but I think at that moment we played very well and were the better side.
It was an explosion of joy to be here after such a long time, we worked hard for it. We were very close one previous time in Rotterdam, but we've managed it now, and as I say, we are happy to be here [among] the 12 best countries in Europe. So we are going to prepare well.
We played very well away to Bosnia [losing 3-2], we concentrated on defence a lot because we knew what to expect. But I was very confident we were going to make it at home, in our hall, on our floor. And we had some great chances in the last five minutes – Bosnia were tired, we got opportunities and we took one [to win 2-1]. It would have been nicer for my heart [if] it was earlier, but it was a great atmosphere for the fans, we had a lot of spectators, they were very positive and happy with our achievement.
UEFA.com: You coached the Netherlands at the 2008 UEFA European Under-21 Futsal Tournament. Is that an important experience?
Loosveld: That's right, and we have a lot of players from the U21s. They have many good qualities, so maybe I expected them to get here earlier. We have a lot of experienced players as well, who can show it in January for the first time [at a EURO], and help the younger players too.