Skipper Richard Follett brings the latest from Malaysia in this exclusive insight into the squad.
Whilst the England Futsal squad are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the KL World 5's Futsal competition, we will be hearing from several players throughout the week as they bring you their exclusive thoughts on all manner of things from training, games and the hectic schedule in place. Skipper Richard Follett takes his turn and explains all about the last few days in the camp.
Well, another day, another game! This time against the home nation Malaysia in front of an enthusiastic and expectant home crowd. We felt pretty positive after the last half against Australia, having drawn the second period and therefore we approached the Malaysia game with some optimism.
We had started the day with the familiar yet appropriate routine of a swimming pool recovery session to try and shift the soreness from our legs and a video analysis session. The analysis of the Australia game only heightened our disappointment at the sloppy six goals we conceded in the first 10 minutes and a pressing game plan was developed to try and get at the Malaysians, as we felt they would find keeping the ball and creating chances difficult under high pressure.
A 3pm kick off meant little recovery from the Aussie game. This has been a particularly challenging tournament in terms of fitness and our ability to maintain our intense ‘English’ pressing game but was what we needed to test ourselves ahead of Hungary. We are used to playing back-to-back games in our friendly internationals but to play five games in six days is some task.
However, it is of course the same schedule for both teams and as our understanding of Futsal is still developing, with this necessary experience comes tactical nous and greater ‘Futsal awareness.’
We need to learn to better reserve our energy by not making unnecessary runs and keep the ball much better than we currently do. Even though we have worked hard on that in training, we still can’t transfer that to game play.
And so to the game...we welcomed Leigh Holbrook back to a full strength squad for his third cap after he had to sit out the Aussie game with a thigh strain. It’s always a relief to get the game underway after the now familiar, lengthy formalities of waiting in the tunnel and belting out the national anthem, something which still gives a huge sense of pride, particularly for me captaining the side. I know all the players sing their hearts out so at least we win something on match day! I won us the toss – a second ‘win’ of the day – and we got the game underway.
After a strong positive start, Malaysia snuck in to open the scoring after 10 minutes. We replied almost immediately through Alex Sykes’ superb turn and shot from an acute angle which rifled past a stunned Malaysian keeper into the top corner. As the game moved on, we were unjustly on the wrong end of a refereeing decision when Luke Ballinger was heavily challenged from behind whilst trying to shield the ball and having committed men forward, the Malaysians countered and we found ourselves 2-1 down.
A part of travelling to other countries to play is having to deal with local referees but I have to say the standard of refereeing has been very good – but that made this bad decision stand out. A missed 10 metre penalty by Luke Ballinger and a Malaysian third before the break meant a 3-1 reverse at half time which probably didn’t reflect how much possession we had gained but did reflect our inability to keep the ball when we got it.
Half time left us in no doubt as to why we had gone behind and we were buoyed by focussing on our positive play from the first half as we started the second half brightly but once again were undone by individual errors and poor defensive play to concede a further three goals.
Marc Canham’s consolation made it 6-2 when he foxed two opponents with a drag back, raced towards the advancing keeper and curled it into the top corner. It was however, a case of too little too late. Looking at the nature of our individual goals highlights our inability to finish off the typical ‘Futsal goals’ that other more experienced teams make look so easy.
At least we are starting to create some ‘Futsal chances’ – but more work needs to be done on converting these chances under pressure!
Our objective for the week, given the high standard of teams at the tournament, was to win a game, so Saturday was a rest day geared towards winning our Bowl Final (9th / 10th play off) match against China on Sunday. Part of the learning experience was watching the Brazil v Australia semi final this evening. Talk about making it look easy! Brazil cruised to a 7-0 victory without reaching fourth gear. Fantastic to watch at first hand and inspiring for a final chance at victory, but that will be hard against a defensively well drilled Chinese team, but as always we will be suitably prepared and simply have to apply the tactics and eradicate the basic errors which have cost us all week.
Thanks for the continued support from home from family, friends and supporters.