England's Futsal team beat Denmark and drew with Norway in Bodo Tournament
Denmark 2-3 England
Norway 1-1 England
6-7 December 2012
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By Simon Walker
England warmed the chilly sub-Arctic conditions following two excellent performances in Norway against Denmark and the hosts in Bodo.
Situated in the heart of the Arctic Circle, the mini-tournament played host to three evenly matched teams as they all began their preparations for next month’s UEFA Euro qualifiers in earnest.
Immediately prior to these matches, UEFA had completed the draw for the Euro Qualifiers which will see England travel to Lithuania to play Cyprus and the Lithuanians, with the prize being progression to the Main Round for the first time in the England Futsal team’s history.
Although a tough group, England know that if they build on the promising levels shown in Bodo, they will stand a good chance of qualifying.
England had played Denmark on two occasions earlier this year with the honours shared after both teams won a game each, so Pete Sturgess’ men knew what to expect.
The Danes had suffered an 8-3 defeat against Norway, so were smarting after that humiliation and started the game brightly at a high tempo.
But the English players withstood the early pressure and settled into the game, dominating possession and carving out some excellent chances, with Nick Colley coming closest after hitting the bar.
Sam Murphy had a strong game for England, and midway through the first period, he showed exquisite skill and technique as he danced through the Danish defence to score an outstanding solo effort.
This was quickly followed by captain Luke Ballinger scoring a second, after a fumble from Denmark ‘keeper Haagh.
Further chances came and went for a dominant England team with Stuart Cook and debutant Alex Campana proving a handful for the Danish defence and it was Cook who deservingly slotted a third after a counter-attack that left him one-on-one with Haagh.
England continued to break through and create chances to extend their lead after the break, but the Three Lions would rue not putting the game beyond Denmark’s reach after Mikkel Kjaer struck a wonder goal that flew into the top corner.
The dynamic of the game changed, with Denmark demonstrating a newly found belief that led to a scrappy second goal. England managed to see out the game 3-2, but the scoreline was closer than it needed to be.
Norway, ranked over 40 places higher than England in the World Rankings, had looked powerful and well organised in their opener.
But Sturgess and his coaching staff carefully prepared a game plan that could withstand the inevitable pressure that would be applied by Norway.
England defended deeply ensuring that there was no way for Norway to break through, whilst being alive for counter-attacking opportunities. Under pressure, England retained a focus and precision to their defensive work and continued to look menacing on the counter-attack.
Norway had the majority of possession, but it was England who created the best chances as Dave Jennings hit the post, his shot rolling across the line and just evading Alex Campana.
But Jennings didn’t miss shortly afterwards when a Norwegian attack broke down and he was able to break free and calmly slot past the goalkeeper.
Norway’s direct style was having limited results as Sturgess’ men continued to create the better chances, with Rooke, Ballinger and Cook all having glorious opportunities to extend England’s lead.
The hosts eventually opted for the last resort of using the fly-goalkeeper, and with only 51 seconds remaining, ‘keeper Stian Sortevik’s long-distance shot deflected off Sam Murphy, wrong-footing Curtis Holmes and looping into the back of the net.
It was so close to being a major upset in the Futsal world but England will take many positives out of these results in their preparation for the Euro qualifiers.
The England team will have another opportunity to fine-tune prior to the Euros when they head to Malta at the start of January for a stern test against Georgia, Greece and Malta.