Our primary goal is always to qualify [for major tournaments] and then try to win every game. So we’ll continue in the same vein – working and planning with a narrow focus.
How do you see preparations ahead of September’s Futsal World Cup in Lithuania?
As of now, we need to take into account and address the pandemic and the public health situation. We have to see how these impact us on a sporting and planning level, such as whether we can get together or form some kind of bubble, while acting on the public health advice.
Normally, we wouldn’t have to take this into account, but now these are important issues. We saw it already when we met up for our European fixtures, which gave us experience and knowledge of the situation and the problems we can face.
The team get-togethers will be different and more flexible. We’ll have to see what other national teams can do and if we can play some friendlies. Our idea is to work sufficiently so that we arrive well prepared at the World Cup in Lithuania and guaranteed to be competitive.
On top of that, the World Cup is in September, after the summer break and at the start of the season…
It was even worse for the 2016 World Cup in Colombia, when unfortunately, we didn’t have the preparation time we wanted. You need to have more days if we look at that experience.
Ultimately, having your players in peak physical condition is not the same as having them match sharp. The latter is something they can only acquire through training games or friendlies. You need to head into the World Cup with a level of confidence in your game and in your team.
At EURO 2018, Spain had draws with France and Kazakhstan and would go on to lose the final to Portugal. With the likes of Serbia, Brazil and defending champions Argentina all qualified for Lithuania, will this be the most fiercely fought World Cup ever?
All World Cups are that way. Even when it seems like the victors have won easily, in reality it’s been complicated. This is a young sport that is really taking off right now. Futsal’s expansion year after year has created a more level playing field. Teams that did not enjoy success or progress in the early years are now following a set path [to achieve this]. They’ve created and professionalised their leagues, while their players are constantly maturing and improving their level.
While it’s true that the most significant and strongest national teams are the best equipped to go far at tournaments, the number of contenders is growing. We already had Argentina beating Russia to claim the last World Cup and Iran reaching the semi-finals. More and more teams are capable of springing a surprise and gracing the latter stages of tournaments – even those from Africa and Asia. We need to capitalise on our ability and preparation to adapt to this landscape by giving absolutely everything from the first match to the last.
With a league as even as the Spanish one, could deciding on your squad for the World Cup or EURO be your toughest decision yet?
t could be seen as complicated, but I prefer to look at it from the opposite viewpoint. It’s the easiest one because, given what lies ahead, the margin of error is minimal. Our idea is for the selection to be open to anyone in form who we think can meet some need that we have and who is able to adapt in time.
Although difficult to decide, it’s easy if you look at it calmly in the knowledge that, whichever player we choose, we’ll have done well, knowing that he offers the best possible guarantees. The current situation has forced us to expand the range of players under consideration, which is very positive because of the healthy competition created. Then there’s the specific needs we might have for the World Cup or EURO. There are a lot of games in a few days, so there isn’t much margin for error if injuries reduce the squad. We must be very clear about which players we can bring to fit our competitive and tactical needs.
At the last EURO, Spain lost in the final, while at the last World Cup they went out in the quarter-finals. Did those defeats leave a thorn in the side of your players?
The national team have a winning mindset and is always obliged to be at the finals and to win. At the last EURO we made the final, so the goal is the same this time: to reach the final and win it. At the 2016 World Cup, we couldn’t get past the quarter-finals, but even if we had reached the final, our goal would still be to reach another one in Lithuania. We don’t think of this as removing a thorn in our side.
Do you personally feel that pressure to win?
Depending on how you look at it, pressure can be a positive or negative force. If we view it as something that constantly brings bad vibes, then it can become that. However, our idea is to make it contribute to our winning mindset and the demands on us to succeed.
With that mentality, the pressure is used positively to help us work harder every day, demand more from each other, and ensure that the competitive mindset of the players and team gives us an advantage.
Do you like that there are only four months between the World Cup (September) and EURO (January)?
I don’t like or dislike it. We have to adapt to the calendar, and what we may initially think is a negative can become a positive. You could have a good World Cup and carry that competitive dynamic and hard work into the EURO. Alternatively, the World Cup might not go well, and the EURO could be an avenue to iron out possible mistakes.
Is it hard to maintain the squad’s focus and ambition with two major tournaments so close together?
They have enough ambition and desire for both tournaments. By the time the World Cup comes around, it’ll have been more than three years since the last major tournament, EURO 2018. We’ve been working and making sacrifices for a long time. Players want to take part in big tournaments, and now their reward is being able to battle for what all players dream of.