The quarter-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2012 will see a repeat of the recent UEFA EURO final between Spain and Russia. FIFA.com spoke to defender Nikolay Pereverzev and coach Sergey Skorovich about how Russia intend to make it a different result this time around.
Without question, Russia have been the stand-out team in terms of defending at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012. Incredibly in their four games to date, against Solomon Islands, Guatemala and Colombia in the group stage and then Czech Republic in the Round of 16, the Sbornaja have not let in a single goal.
This could change in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, however, as they have been pitted against no less an opponent than 2012 European champions and 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup runners-up Spain. Defender Nikolay Pereverzev, who has made a significant contribution to his team's run of clean sheets thus far, knows that a far greater challenge now awaits them.
"We work really hard to at least secure a draw," said the 25-year-old in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "And if you keep a clean sheet, then that means you can't lose – it's 0-0 at worst. And then if we take just one of the chances that come our way, that puts us 1-0 up, and that might well be enough to secure the win."
Trainer Sergey Skorovich takes a more pragmatic view of the overall situation. "It's obviously pleasing for me as a coach if we don't let in any goals, but the main thing is winning every match we play, regardless of how we do it," he said in his typically direct fashion.
Wednesday will see Skorovich and his team trying once again to stop La Furia Roja, but the stats make for discouraging reading as far as the Russians are concerned. In 19 matches dating back to 1992, they have yet to to defeat the Spanish, with the latest setback coming at the EURO Final in February, where they lost 3-1 after extra time.
"There's a real rivalry between us and Spain since both of us want to be the best," said Pereverzev. "Spain currently have their noses in front but I hope that from the next match onwards, we will be able to start redressing the balance."
"We showed that we were as good as them at the EURO final and had we won, it would have been fully deserved. I hope that God realises this and decides to give us a little help this time. Spain are going to have to lose one day, and I hope that that day will come on Wednesday."
Coach Skorovich is also expected a tight match against the Spaniards. "It'll be a tough game for both teams," he said. "It's a re-run of the final of the EURO and both us and Spain will be going all out to win. I think they're the favourites, but we'll be doing all we can to knock them off their perch."
The defence know exactly what is expected of them on Wednesday, including Pereverzev, who, despite already getting his name on the score-sheet at this FIFA Futsal World Cup, is happy to remain in the background when it comes to writing the headlines.
"It's not always easy to strike a balance between going forward and staying back, but my main task is to cover for any mistakes my team-mates make and keep things in place in front of our own net," said 5'7 Pereverzev, who is the second-youngest member of the Russian squad. And he will certainly have his work cut out against a Spain team which has already scored 22 goals here in Thailand, though he knows better than to focus on one star player to the detriment of his overall duties. "We need to keep an eye on every single Spanish player," he said. "They are an incredibly solid and dangerous group rather than just being a bunch of individuals."
Pereverzev is also concerned that, unlike their opponents, his side may not have found top gear yet at this tournament. In their opening fixture, Spain played out a hard-fought 2-2 draw with Iran, one of the best teams in the world, while Russia have had a far easier time of it thus far.
"That could well be a problem, since we have to make a mental shift after playing against Solomon Islands and Guatemala to facing Spain," said Pereverzev. "But they're an opponent we know inside-out and we'll be up for the fight," added the player who was part of the team that finished fourth at Brazil 2008.
After listening to Pereverzev and Skorovich, it would be an understatement to say Russia have every respect for the reigning European champions. Yet for all that, they are determined to put an end to two incredible runs. Russia are gunning for their first win over Spain in 20 years, and also hoping to consign La Furia Roja to their first defeat in 118 matches. And if the eastern Europeans can keep another clean sheet on Wednesday, then they will be well on the way to achieving this.