Nostalgia is not something that Colombia’s futsal coach Osmar Fonnegra seems to indulge in. Every time he looks back, he does so with his thoughts fixed firmly on the future, which is understandable for someone who has the responsibility of plotting the host nation’s course at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016.
That said, Fonnegra does admit to letting his mind wander back in time whenever he contemplates the journey taken since his appointment in 2007.
“Of course I do,” he told FIFA.com with a broad smile. “I sometimes recall when we sat down with the fitness coach to plan for what we had hoped would be our first World Cup in 2016. But look at us now! Not only did we finish fourth in 2012, but we’re also among the top-ten sides in the world and we’re going to be playing the 2016 World Cup at home.”
Though the surprise was evident in Fonnegra’s voice, he quickly regained his composure to put Colombia’s progress since Thailand 2012 into perspective: “That’s the way it should be, and that fourth place makes me even more determined to do well on home soil.
“We know it’s going to be difficult to improve on that performance but we’re confident we can do the work we need to in trying to match it at least. And if we can’t do that, we should do the country proud all the same.”
The 45-year-old coach is convinced his team is on the right track: “We’re working with a core of ten players who went to Thailand along with a few others who have emerged from the national league.
“We’ve been getting together every two or three months and I can see that the team is maturing. They’re no longer the 19 or 20-year-old kids we took in 2012 but grown men, who at the age of 23 and 24, know exactly what they want. And the important thing is that they’ve kept their feet on the ground.”
Twice nominated for the world’s best national coach award, Fonnegra is delighted with the type of futsal his side is continuing to play: “We’ve maintained our style. We’re a dynamic team that is tactically astute in defence and dangerous on the counter.
“We’re trying to be a little more adventurous these days. We’re the host nation and we’ll have to take the game to teams, though we’ll still be trying to play an entertaining and committed brand of futsal.”
A busy schedule
As Fonnegra went on to explain, the upcoming Copa America, which kicks off on 23 August, comes at just the right time for his team.
“We’re looking at it as another step in our preparations,” he said. “We want to have a great World Cup, but we can’t go and promise to the national FA or the fans that we’re going to win a title. We’d be lying to them if we did. Our only objective is to keep working on the squad with next year in mind.”
A keen pool player and an aficionado of vallenato, a popular musical genre on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Fonnegra is anxious to play down the importance of results right now and the fact that the experts are tipping Colombia as one of the favourites to win the continental title.
“We know that and we understand that we have to be more and more ambitious. We came fourth four years ago and we have to look to improve on that. If we can fight it out for the title, then so much the better. If not, we’ll just keep on working on our preparations for the World Cup. And to do that the players need to keep on picking up international experience.”
Colombia will follow their Copa America campaign with a friendly tournament in Guatemala, after which they will prepare for the South American preliminaries for next year’s world finals, a qualifying tournament they will take part in despite already being assured a World Cup place as hosts.
Explaining what comes after that, Fonnegra said: “We have an important European tour next May and June, where we’ll be taking on big teams such as Spain, Portugal, Russia and Italy. The tour will bring an end to our preparations, and we’ll be focusing on the World Cup after that.”
Contemplating the pressure that habitually weighs on World Cup hosts, the Colombia coach had this to say: “Though we’re still a year away from the World Cup, we can sense it coming. We know the fans will be expecting more from us than they did at the last World Cup, but this team has some exciting challenges ahead of it.
“The players have already got butterflies in their stomachs, as does every member of the coaching staff. I think we’re going to be up to the job.”