On the eve of the KL World 5's competition, Head Coach Graeme Dell answers some questions.
On the eve of England’s Futsal team’s departure to Kuala Lumpur for the KL World Futsal 5s tournament, England Head Coach Graeme Dell took time out to talk to TheFA.com about the challenges facing his team next week.
Obviously you will be excited and looking forward to the tournament but what’s so special about the KL World 5s?
Having experienced this tournament as my first introduction to Futsal with The FA back in 2003, I have a very good idea of what to expect. It’s a massive tournament in Asia and accepting the invitation wasn’t a difficult choice especially as we prepare for World Cup Qualifiers later in February. I think it’s the general exposure that the 5’s get with media and TV coverage on a scale we don’t see anywhere else around the world, but it’s also the fact that there is such a wealth of expert Futsal knowledge converging on one stage that excites me personally. I have no doubt that the event will deliver an entire library of Futsal knowledge and for me, it’s going to be as much about learning more from other teams as the National Coaches are all keen to learn from each other.
Are you happy and confident with the squad you have selected and are they all fit?
Since I named the squad, I have had to replace three players for various reasons but nonetheless I have full confidence in the group that we’re now taking. It’s great to offer players this opportunity and nobody feels as if they are only there by default, as some were unlucky not to make the initial twelve. I don’t think as a coach you should never be totally happy with your squad, only because you are always searching for perfection and that means never being satisfied with what you have. The challenge is making them perform to the best they are capable of. I know this group of players very well and between us, we shall work well over the next eight days to deliver at the top end of our capabilities but, where that registers on the overall tournament standard, we shall have to wait and see.
So, with that in mind what are your expectations of England’s chances?
I feel that, as mere novices at Futsal still, we have to always be realistic about our chances in any fixture. We will be the lowest ranked team in KL and our first game is against Argentina, one of the highest in the world, so there’s the reality check. I don’t expect us to win this tournament by any means, far from it, and I’m not hung up on a ‘win-at-all’ costs mentality, we can’t be as we’re not good enough yet. But I expect improved performances from each of my players against some very challenging opponents. Our initial goal will be to carry on where we left off against Greece before Christmas and that means having to defend astutely and resiliently against some accomplished technicians. This trip is about allowing our players to perform against good teams on the big stage and they don’t get much bigger than this so that should prepare them well for Budapest in February.
As a world tournament, how well do the teams reflect the standard of international Futsal?
The tournament is cleverly structured so that there are two teams from varying ranking levels, with Brazil and Argentina being at the top of the pile. That means that hopefully nobody gets pasted but can learn in the process, and every team has an opportunity to win a game. It’s a development tournament in many regards and also allows the better nations to prepare for the bigger tournaments by trying new ideas where the stakes aren’t that high. The other benefit is that you get to play and watch teams from all four continents, which doesn’t happen in any official tournament until the Finals.
How much do you know about your opponents going in to these games and how will you prepare the team?
Very little, if I’m honest. Other than Holland who we have played twice before, we won’t have seen any of the other teams play recently although of course I have watched most of them in recent years as we’ve travelled. That doesn’t bother me too much, as at this stage in our development it’s still got to be more of a focus on us and what we can do well or better to develop our game plan, rather than wasting fixtures worrying about how the other team will play. Other than our first game, at least I will be able to watch each of the other teams while we are there before we play them, but we will prepare in our usual way with some slight variances as the week moves on. Five games in five days means mental toughness and looking after yourself when off-court will be key so we shall work at length on those aspects.
What will be your objectives for the England team and for Futsal in England as a whole from this trip?
I want to make sure that each player gets the opportunity to prove what they’ve learned last year and for them to keep banging away saying “I’m as good as you’ve got at the minute, so you have to pick me.” As the player base grows, I get more to select from and these lads will have to grasp this opportunity with both hands. We also have to use this experience to deliver both a learning and development environment so that the players and staff can improve from the experience. It will be great if we can get some decent results but that won’t always mean winning games, although that will be nice now we have a taste for it. For example, I think we’ll do well not to concede 15 goals against Argentina, so anything better will be a good result and it may seem odd saying such a high figure, but that’s the way this game is. Bringing back new knowledge and delivering that to the Futsal coaches in England through courses, clinics and seminars, is also a priority thus ensuring that we don’t miss an opportunity to keep improving our domestic game.