The Netherlands believe they have "nothing to lose" as they start Group B against 2012 runners-up Russia, who prepared for the finals by meeting up with their triumphant 1999 squad.
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The Netherlands go into the UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 opening match against Russia on Tuesday well aware of their Group B outsider status, but after a short trip across the border to Antwerp are ready to end an 18-year losing streak against their opponents.
In their first finals since 2005, the Netherlands take on the runners-up from the last two tournaments – Russia, then Portugal. Marcel Loosveld's side are widely expected to be the one of those three to miss out on the quarter-finals, but the coach told UEFA.com: "We have nothing to lose.
"It would be a great surprise if we got the quarter-finals," added Loosveld, who played much of his club career in Belgium. "But with the quality of our players, if they are at full strength and play with their hearts and their heads, maybe something is possible."
Loosveld's squad, who warmed up with a 6-0 reverse in Spain last week, lost 1-0 to a youthful Russia team in China last summer, continuing an eight-game run of defeats since 1996, including a narrow 2-0 setback in 2012 qualifying. "We had some chances, and maybe we ought to get something more out of it tomorrow," he said. "We respect the quality of the group, we know the strength of those teams, but we will play like we can."
Russia, the champions in 1999, were less than a minute from taking a second title two years ago in Zagreb only for Spain to equalise and then win in extra time. Unlike the young Dutch squad, there is vast finals experience in the Russian selection with the likes of Cirilo, Aleksandr Fukin and Vladislav Shayakhmetov, plus Gustavo, recently named best goalkeeper in the world by Futsal Planet website.
"If we are successful it will mean that we did everything right [in preparation]," explained coach Sergei Skorovich. "First of all, we need to think about our goals for the whole tournament, which consists not just of one match. We understand that the Netherlands are not the strongest opponents, but we respect them, no doubt. But still, it's not the final, it's just the beginning."
Looking back at the June friendly, Skorovich added: "I have analysed the Netherlands' performances and can say that they progress from match to match. Today they play very modern and tactically astute futsal. It won't be easy against them for anyone. We don't feel nerves and to play in the opening match is always a big honour. I hope that everybody will see and feel the power of the Russian team."
Skorovich's charges gained inspiration ahead of the tournament when they met with the victorious 1999 squad. "It was useful to speak with the champions. It's our history – they are the only European champions from Russia. The shared some secrets with us and we touched history. It might help us. I hope that we will take up the baton from the past."