England Futsal will enter pre-qualifying in Moldova for the UEFA Futsal European Championships with the ambition of qualifying for their first ever major tournament.
The Futsal Lions will face Israel on Friday 31 January and then hosts Moldova the following as they bid to top the group and take another step closer to the finals in the Netherlands.
A record number of 49 teams have entered pre-qualifying for the tournament, with 16 'elite teams' given byes to the main round of qualifying, while England and the other 32 nations prepare to battle it out for a spot.
The condensed version of the game has been around for almost 100 years but how much do you know about England Futsal?
Here's a few bits of information to help you support the Futsal Lions.
What is Futsal?
It was created in Uruguay by Juan Carlos Ceriani in 1930, the same year Uruguay won the first World Cup, before a full rule book was developed three years later.
The rules remained open to interpretation until the 1960s when the game was standardised and rapidly began to increase in popularity all over the world.
The basic rules of football apply but there are a few key differences:
- Games are 40 minutes long, played in two halves on a hard court pitch.
- There are five players per team and unlimited substitutions are allowed during the game.
- A smaller, heavier, size four football is used to emphasise close control.
- Outfield players use kick-ins instead of throw-ins. These must be taken within 4 seconds however goalkeepers are only allowed to throw the goal back into play.
- For international matches, there must be two referees
- The length of the field must be in the range of 38–42 m (125–138 ft), and the width must be in the range of 20–25 m (66–82 ft) for international matches.
- There is no offside rule in Futsal
England Futsal appointed Mike Skubala as head coach in January 2017. Skubala was assistant to former head coach Peter Sturgess prior to that and a former international player.
Skubala has previously been director of football at Loughborough University as well as assistant coach with British University and colleges GB World university teams in Futsal and football.
Speaking on England latest endeavor to qualify for a major tournament he said: "Moldova are currently ranked higher than us in the world which might surprise a lot of people but they take it really seriously out in Europe."
In 2018 The FA launched its Futsal Strategy which aims to make Futsal England's indoor game of choice by 2024.
The FA and Skubala identified five main priorities in order to achieve this.
- Create a high-impact identity for Futsal in England
- Drive participation
- Establish competition and player pathways
- Create a specialist Futsal workforce
- Build the bedrock for successful England Futsal teams
The FA Futsal cup was introduced in a new format bringing adults, youth and schools all under one umbrella and culminating in a four-day National Finals event at St. George's Park.
The FA has also welcomed Pokémon on board as an official sponsor for youth Futsal with the aim of making the sport a natural part of children’s football development.
The first round draw for this season's Futsal Cup has already taken place at St George's Park with ties to take place on Sunday 16 February.