Spain are the dominant futsal power on the continent but their nine-year reign as European champions was ended in 2014, something they now hope to put right.
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Spain are the dominant futsal power on the continent but their nine-year reign as European champions was ended in 2014.
Under Javier Lozano, who took over in 1992, they won the UEFA European Futsal Championship in 1996, 2001 and 2005 as well as the FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2000 and 2004, breaking Brazil's stranglehold on the trophy. Though José Venancio López succeeded Lozano on the eve of the 2007 EURO, they retained their title and only lost the 2008 World Cup final to hosts Brazil on penalties before further continental triumphs in 2010 and 2012 – the year Brazil pipped them after extra time in the World Cup final.
In fact, Spain were unbeaten over 40 minutes in competitive games between losing to Italy in the 2005 European group stage and their last-four reversal to Russia in 2014. Still, 21 straight victories since that 4-3 extra-time defeat by Russia in Antwerp show that even without retired stalwarts like Luis Amado, Torras and Kike, Spain remain the team to beat.
2 February: v Hungary, 21.00 (head to head P13 W12 D0 L1 F75 A25)
6 February: v Ukraine, 18.30 (head to head P12 W12 D0 L0 F43 A10)
- Key facts
Best performance: Winners (1996, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012)
Qualifying top scorer: Lin 5
Players to watch: Ortiz (injured for group stage), Lin, Fernandão
- Three questions: Federico Vidal Montaldo, assistant coach
Are you ready to reclaim the title?
Our challenge is to reclaim the title, of course. We are not defending champions – Italy are – so for sure that is our ambition and an additional challenge. We will do all we can to achieve our goal. We want to be champions again. Of course it is not going to be easy, but we will see if we can return the trophy to Spain. But our first objective is to try to win our first two matches and so win the group and progress to the next round.
How do you reflect on Antwerp two years ago?
Last time out, in Belgium, we weren't able to make the final and we want to improve on that. This time we want to return where we once were, where we want to be. But we know we have to take things one step at a time.
How have the Spain team changed since then?
In recent years we have made a few minor changes to the squad, with a small generational shift. But we have retained the overall quality of the team. There are always new players, who logically bring new strengths to the group. We are calm about things. We have a great team, which is the result of years of hard work.