England's FIFA Futsal World Cup hopes ended after three qualifying games in Italy

Sunday 27 Oct 2019
England's final qualifier was against Belarus on Sunday evening

England's Futsal squad saw their FIFA Futsal World Cup dreams come to an end, as they went out at the Main Qualifying Round stage.

Michael Skubala's side played three games in Eboli, against the host nation Italy, Hungary and Belarus who are all higher-ranked opposition making it a tough trio of encounters for the Futsal Lions.

Find out how each game went with our reports from William Brown in Italy, below:-

Game Three: Belarus 5-2 England

The Futsal Lions took on Belarus, who are ranked 22nd in the world, in their final game of the tournament.

With Belarus competing to top the group over Italy, a win for England would’ve meant a better position in the draw for the 2020-22 European Championships.

Michael Skubala made one change to his team with Jonny Sim coming in to replace goalkeeper Mark Croft following his injury in the game against Italy.

Both teams started well, creating chances in the first ten minutes without making a breakthrough.

But Belarus began to build the pressure and in the 13th minute, they took the lead as Pavel Rogovik found the bottom right corner.

Vladimir Zhigalko then grabbed a second for Belarus after a goalmouth scramble two minutes later, to give them the advantage at half time.

England began the second half strongly, with James Webb drawing a foul just outside of the area. William Wallace took it on, but the Belarus keeper was able to deflect it on to the crossbar.

And within seconds, Belarus quickly countered with Sergei Krikun popping up at the back post to make it 3-0 which was harsh on the Futsal Lions.

With less than ten minutes remaining, England chose to play the fly-keeper again, with Wallace taking up the role. Belarus responded with the same tactic, which ensured an exciting end to the game.

And just 40 seconds remained when Robbie Bettson capitalised on the Belarus fly to make it 3-1.

Belarus responded quickly with their fourth and fifth goals within a matter of seconds, before Agon Rexha found the net with just seven seconds remaining with his second goal of the tournament.

The Futsal Lions line-up ahead of the Italy game on Friday

Game Two:  Italy 4 -1 England

England started their second game sharply, with a clear point to prove after Thursday’s result, and took the game straight to Italy.

It was all square after the ten minute mark, as both teams looked to find a way through and Mark Croft was proving tough for the Italians to beat, as he made five excellent saves in a row.

And with five minutes remaining of the first half, Liam Palfreeman broke away from two Italian defenders with a clever turn to find Richard Ward but the Italians recovered in time to prevent a shot.

In the final two minutes, England ramped up the pressure on Italy and drew a fifth foul of the half, but were unable to get a sixth as the first half ended goal-less.

Skubala’s team came back out fighting and Croft was called straight back in to action with a point blank save.

But Italy made the breakthrough when Alex Merlim cut in from the left hand side and fired the hosts in front in the 22nd minute.

A minute later, Merlim of Sporting CP fired home again from a similar position, with Italy showing why they’re ranked eighth in the world.

England’s defence stood strong once again but in the 35th minute, after a great initial save from Croft, Italy managed to bundle it over the line to make it 3-0.

With just over three minutes remaining England’s William Wallace put on the fly keeper shirt as they looked to find a way back into the game.

And there was a penalty to England after an Italian handball, with Agon Rexha stepping up to calmly place it in the bottom right corner.

England continued with the fly keeper but the Italian goalkeeper Stefano Mammarella held on to a shot and fired straight in to the open goal to complete the scoring and end England's qualification hopes.

The squad line-up ahead of the first game with Hungary

Game One: Hungary 3-0 England 

England had a tough start in their FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifying campaign on Thursday evening, with a 3-0 defeat against Hungary.

The Futsal Lions found themselves under instant pressure as Hungary made a lively start to the game, before taking a second-minute lead through a back-post finish from Imre Nagy.

And Michael Skubala’s team had to withstand more Hungarian pressing, with goalkeeper Mark Croft forced into a string of saves to keep the deficit to one goal.

As England began to grow into the game, and started to create more chances of their own, Hungary called a time-out after nine minutes before adding a second goal immediately after through Szabolcs Horvath.

England’s best chance to reduce the arrears came from Loughborough Students’ Will Rooke, following a quick counter attack.

And they came even closer in the early stages of the second half when James Webb cracked a shot against the bar in the 22nd minute after a strong start.

With time running out, England used their fly-keeper option with William Wallace in the chase for a route back into the game.

But Hungary capitalised on a breakaway, with captain Zoltan Droth scoring to make it 3-0 with two minutes remaining.

By FA Staff