To lift the FIFA Futsal World Cup, teams must successfully negotiate seven matches, as Russia and Argentina – the Colombia 2016 finalists who will lock horns on Saturday – know all too well.
Prior to that decisive duel, FIFA.com posed seven questions to the coaches of the two surviving teams, Sergey Skorovich (43 years old, seven years in charge of Russia, second time at a Futsal World Cup) and Diego Giustozzi (38 years old, three years at the helm of Argentina, first time at the tournament).
If you had to give one reason for your team making it to the final, what would it be? Skorovich: I can’t just give one reason, because there are many aspects to achieving the right results. A team must work together as a unit, always be on the same wavelength, be in good physical condition, and be able to adapt, tactically speaking. The better those aspects are, the better your chances of success will be.
Giustozzi: Because we were able to handle all of the situations that transpire during a game better than our opponents. There were a variety of different circumstances that we were able to take in our stride, including winning in different ways to which we’re accustomed. We outshone our opponents mentally, technically and tactically.
At what exact moment did you realise that your team was going to reach the final? Skorovich: We knew we had a difficult route to the final, but that if we took it one game at a time, we could go quite far. But the moment of truth was beating Spain in the quarter-finals. We played well and defeated really tough opponents, while learning some important lessons at the same time.
Giustozzi: After a chat we had with the squad following the Costa Rica match. Beating Kazakhstan made them take their foot off the pedal a little, which was apparent to us in the Solomon Islands and Costa Rica games. After speaking to the group and then with some players individually, I noticed a general change of attitude at training, and when they beat Ukraine, that was the confirmation I needed that they’d received the message loud and clear. From that moment, everything clicked into place.
What has impressed you about your upcoming opponents? Skorovich: Their discipline and adaptability. Argentina have been extremely organised throughout the tournament. They’re well coached and they’re an adaptable side. It’s going to be a tough but quite interesting match.
Giustozzi: Russia have changed a lot since the UEFA Futsal Championship in February, and that’s surprised me. They’re now more dynamic and they work better as a team. Previously, they relied a lot on their Brazilian-born players, and now the Brazilians are the ones having to adapt to a more collective style of play.
If you could pick one player from the opposing side, who would it be and why? Skorovich: I think the main strength of Argentina’s game is the way they play as a team, so I’ll leave that one to my counterpart. They have some great players, but I’d prefer to focus on the 14 available to me.
Giustozzi: Eder Lima. He gives a lot of direction to their play, he’s very good with his back to goal, and he’s a great finisher. I wouldn’t let him play, or I’d make sure he just played for us (laughs).
How would you describe your counterpart? Skorovich: I don’t know him personally, but I do have enormous respect for him. He’s earned the right to be here, and his team have made a huge impact on the competition. It’s obvious that he’s done some great work.
Giustozzi: He’s a very experienced coach, with a lot of matches like this one under his belt, which is something I lack as a coach. From the little that I know of him, he likes his team to be fluid, and he prefers to just let them play. Previously their game was based on individuals, and now they have a collective style – that’s a credit to him.
Do you think that Colombia 2016 marks the start of a “new world order” in futsal? Skorovich: Sport is always about what happens in the present. History and statistics are part of the past. We can see how futsal is evolving, and how more and more teams are doing a better job of representing their countries. Perhaps outsiders making it to the last four is proof of that.
Giustozzi: Yes. Up till now those were just words, but globalisation and professionalism have levelled everything up. You can’t win big games just by turning up anymore. The results are pretty clear: if a team doesn’t work hard, they’ll be left behind.
What would it mean for futsal in your country if you won this tournament? Skorovich: For Russia, it would be a great success. We’re a great sporting nation, and we love futsal. The media talks about it, and people watch our games. It would be an enormous source of pride.
Giustozzi: Futsal in Argentina is not a business or a job, but a passion, and people have been following our achievements here with their hearts, and so I think a win would be met with great joy. On top of that, it would lead to futsal in Argentina becoming professional, and that would allow us to finally join the world’s elite.