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Fledglings Norway among futsal aristocracy

Less than two years after their debut, Norway face Italy in the FIFA Futsal World Cup play-offs and coach Esten Oddmund Saether discusses their rise ahead of their first ever home match.

Norway learned from playing Spain in the main round
Norway learned from playing Spain in the main round ©Fedja Krvavac

Less than two years after playing their first ever fixture, Norway will be challenging 2004 FIFA Futsal World Cup runners-up Italy for a place in this autumn's finals in Thailand.

Masterminding their extraordinary rise since a pair of 2-1 victories in the Republic of Ireland at the end of March 2011 has been Esten Oddmund Saether, best known as a journalist. They progressed past the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 preliminary round and having done the same in 2012 World Cup qualifying, came through a main round group in December, holding Belgium and beating Bosnia and Herzegovina. That earned a play-off against Italy at home on Wednesday and in Bari on 11 April. Saether spoke to UEFA.com about how they did it.

UEFA.com: What do you think of your opponents?

Esten Oddmund Saether: I think it is a very good draw because they are a lot better than us and they will show the Norwegian audience what futsal skills they have. I think that perhaps we can give them a little bit of a surprise because we try to play futsal in our own way, and although we don't have skills as good as them, we will try. It will be Norway's first home game ever. We have played only 18 matches, that will be nice as well.

UEFA.com: How do you think you can do?

Saether: We have been playing for less than two years and interest is really growing. We are playing with football players, we are combining the two sports and the play-offs will happen when the Norwegian football season has started so it will be a little difficult for us to get all the players but I think we will manage to do it.

UEFA.com: Why have you had so much success so soon?

Saether: Because we play our own style, that is really important. You have to believe in your way or organising the game and we try to have high pressure all the time, and nobody does that. You see Spain do it a little bit, they are of course on another level, but when we played Spain [losing 8-0 in the main round] we tried to attack them very high, and we got some lessons from that. We will continue to play our own way, that's important for a new nation.

And we felt afterwards, OK we were heavily beaten but we knew what was wrong, and it was not the way we were playing, it was individual mistakes. And we didn't make them in the next two games, the opponents were not as good but also we learned from our mistakes so it was important for the next games that we played that way against Spain. And we got backing from Spain, they said we were a special team and they wished us good luck to get through.

My team is KFUM Oslo, we have been playing this style. I've been a coach for 40 years, and we have been playing this style of indoor football for 35 years. So when a national league was set up it was an opportunity for my young players. It has proved an interesting style.

UEFA.com: What does it mean for your players to represent Norway?

Saether: Some of our players play in the [football] first division, but mostly the second or third division, so it is a big opportunity for them to be international players, and we know we have good skills. We have a very young squad.