Up against former champions Russia and the Netherlands in Group B, Portugal coach Jorge Braz is excited by their section, the competition and the evolution of futsal itself.
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UEFA Futsal EURO 2010 runners-up, but pipped by Italy in the quarter-finals at both European and FIFA Futsal World Cup level two years ago, Portugal are going for glory in Antwerp. Up against former champions Russia and the Netherlands in Group B, coach Jorge Braz is excited by their section, the competition and the evolution of futsal itself, as he told UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: What do you make of your group?
Jorge Braz: We have two teams that are slightly different but both very strong. The Netherlands are re-emerging in European futsal, with that creativity, that abundance of individual quality in most of their players. And Russia, who at the moment are an international powerhouse, have a lot of quality and a very strong domestic league.
I think it's the most interesting group. Maybe it's the most even, on paper, which can create some difficulties qualifying. I think we don't have any doubts – we want to overcome all doubts in preparing for the finals. But of course we know about the difficulties of playing the Netherlands, because of their characteristics, and especially Russia, because of their quality, because they were finalists at the last EURO. We want to get through and we are convinced we have the quality to do so.
UEFA.com: Can Portugal at last get the better of Russia, Italy and Spain?
Braz: The same [teams] are still the favourites, but Portugal want to do their own job. We want to get through the first stage of the competition, and then there will be a second stage. At the last EURO our campaign ended at the start of that second stage; this time we don't want to finish there. We clearly [have it in our heads] that we want to get through the group and that we will get through the group and then play a second half of the competition.
UEFA.com: How is futsal evolving?
Braz: It can always evolve. We see a fabulous level of sporting performance. We see quick decision-making, with a very short time in which to make decisions which have to be immediate and also highly refined, because of the lack of space. All of that ensures a certain quality to all the actions. When the game is forcing players to solve these challenges, then clearly we can [anticipate] a fantastic level of performance.
I might not be neutral, but I think it's an extremely attractive product. We – apart from being coaches – are here to assist, to help and to create new spaces, new tactics, new options, fuelled by the game's evolution. These are the challenges the players will encounter in training. There is always a lot to develop.