Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

2022 UEFA Futsal Euro Preview Group C (Part 5)

Posted on 18 January 2022 by Felipe Lima
Group C – Russia, Poland, Slovakia and Croatia

It’s time for group C. Russia, Poland, Slovakia and Croatia.

RUSSIA

Photo Credit – UEFA Official Programme

In 1999, Russia were the champions of the first officially endorsed UEFA Futsal Euros. After failure in 1996, they travelled to Spain and took the hosts all the way to a penalty shoot-out, in which they won 4-2.

The nation is accustomed to reaching the later stages of major Futsal competitions. They have reached five out of seven finals from 2005 to 2016. Surprisingly, 1999 remains their only honour.

Russia’s European record include: three third places, five second places and one title. It feels like the ultimate prize is within touching distance again. The Portuguese have been on the up, but so have Russia.

It’s safe to say that their own expectations are matched to the expectation of those watching on. Especially as their qualifying campaign demonstrated the level this team is at.

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Russia qualified top of group two as winners, brushing Georgia, France and Armenia and only conceding five goals.

They currently sit fifth in the Futsal World ranking, a lowly spot for a team with such high standards.

Coach Sergei Skirovich has been in charge since 2009 and he will be calling upon all his players to finally bring him a European title. This will be Sergei Abramov’s fifth Euro participation.

The vastly experienced pivot will bring his goal scoring abilities to the court. The number nine has recently won the top goal scorer for his domestic team. Another experienced player with an eye for goal is evergreen Robinho.

There are no weak links in this squad. Alongside Robinho, Ivan Chishkala had an incredible World Cup campaign in Lithuania. The link between the two also flourish in Portugal as both represent Benfica. Chishkala scored an impressive five.

In the Futsal Planet awards, another team mate had the time to shine. Anton Sokolov, who plays his Futsal for MFK Sinara, was in amongst the nominated for “Best Men’s Young Player in the World.

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International and club level team mate, Dmitri Putilov takes care of business at the other end of the court. He was also nominated for “Best Goalkeepers in the World”.

Russian record holder Ivan Milovanov boats over a century of appearances for the national team. He spoke about the team’s chances and how the preparations are going.

“Each of us understands that we should not get ahead of ourselves. We need to carry on with preparing well at the training camp.”

“The European teams have improved and everyone is striving to win titles. We experienced a strong Croatian and Polish teams, neither were easy matches. We will tune into each opponent with maximum effort and give all on the court, to hopefully please our fans.”

Captain Sergei Abramov, will lead a determined squad of players into this tournament but can it finally be Russia’s turn again?

Form:

L: 1-1 Argentina (26/09/2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup)

W: 3-2 Vietnam (22/09/2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup)

W: 4-1 Guatemala (18/09/2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup)

W: 4-2 Uzbekistan (15/09/2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup)

W: 9-0 Egypt (12/09/2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup)

Squad List:

Coach

Sergei Skorovich

Goalkeepers

Dmitri Putilov (MFK Sinara, Russia) and Georgi Zamtaradze (MFK KPRF, Russia)

Defenders

Artem Antoshkin (MFK Tyumen, Russia), Ivan Chishkala (SL Benfica, Portugal), Ivan Milovanov (MFK Tyumen, Russia) and Romulo (SL Benfica, Portugal)

Forwards

Sergei Abramov (MFK Sinara, Russia), Sergei Abramovich (MFK Tyumen, Russia), Andrei Afansyev (Ugra Yugorsk, Russia), Yanar Asadov (MFK KPRF, Russia), Daniil Davydov (Ugra Yugorsk, Russia), Eder Lima (Unattached) Artem Niyazov (MFK KPRF, Russia) and Robinho (SL Benfica, Portugal)

POLAND

Photo Credit – UEFA Official Programme

Poland’s best efforts have come in 2001 and 2018 where both times they reached the group stage of the final tournament in the Euro championships.

In 2001 they faced Spain, Ukraine and Croatia failing to register a point and in 2018 they achieved their best result against Russia 1-1.

This result came in the last nine seconds of that match. Key man, Michał Kubik equalised and guaranteed them their first ever point. Unfortunately, this draw wasn’t enough to see them through the group stages.

Coach Błażej Korczyński will be relying on Kubik’s experience in the Netherlands. Kubik has now been part of the international side for over a decade. Alongside the main man they have Michał Marek and Sebastian Leszczak who put up their fair share of goals.

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In the goalkeeping department, the duties are likely to be shared between experienced Michał Kałuża and rising star Bartłomiej Nawrat.

Poland is currently in 27th position in the Futsal World ranking and have some way to develop until they can be called a contender but promising signs are there.

In order to book themselves a spot for the Netherlands, they played against Czech Republic, Norway and Portugal in their qualifying group.

Korczyński was once a prolific goal scorer himself. With over 300 Polish league goals, has also plenty of managerial experience. Korczyński was put in charge of the national side in 2017 and there seems to be signs of improvement since his appointment.

Form:

W: 8-5 Czech Republic (14/04/2021 UEFA Futsal Euros)

D: 3-3 Czech Republic (09/04/2021 UEFA Futsal Euros)

W: 4-1 Norway (08/03/2021 UEFA Futsal Euros)

W: 3-0 Norway (05/03/2021 UEFA Futsal Euros)

L: 3-0 Portugal (03/02/2021 UEFA Futsal Euros)

Squad List:

Coach

Błażej Korczyński

Goalkeepers

Michał Kałuża (CD Burela FS) and Bartłomiej Nawrat (Record Bielsko-Biała)

Defenders

Tomasz Kriezel (KS Constract Lubawa, Poland), Michał Kubik (Record Bielsko-Biała, Poland), Tomasz Lutecki (Dreman Opole Komprachcice, Poland) and Dominik Solecki (Futsal Leszno, Poland)

Forwards

Krzysztof Elsner (Dreman Opole Komprachcice, Poland), Patryk Holy (Red Dragons Pniewy, Poland), Sebastian Leszczak (Record Bielsko-Biała, Poland), Mateusz Madziąg (KS Constract Lubawa, Poland), Michał Marek (Record Bielsko-Biała, Poland), Dominik Śmiałkowski (Piast Gliwice Futsal, Poland) Sebastian Wojciechowski (Futsal Leszno, Poland) and Mikołaj Zastawnik (Record Bielsko-Biała, Poland).

SLOVAKIA (debutants)

Photo Credit – UEFA Official Programme

With the expansion of the tournament from 12 to 16 teams, Slovakia have been one of the direct beneficiaries. They have had several near-misses but its finally their chance to take centre stage.

In order to achieve this, they had to play Azerbaijan, Moldova and Greece. With one loss, two draws and three wins they were able to come runners-up of group three.

Coach Marián Berky’s men are currently in 26th position in the Futsal World ranking, one above opponents Poland who have reached this level of competition.

This will fill Berky with confidence that his boys will be able to succeed in the European stage. Futsal Planet has nominated him among the “Best Men’s National Team Coach in the World” so he will be hoping to inspire his players to make history.

Photo Credit – UEFA Official Programme

Berky was once a former player for Slov-Matic Bratislava and the national team. He has been in charged since 2015 and shares his time coaching both, the national team and national champions, Lučenec.

Tomáš Drahovsky is a name to note, he collects an abundance of titles in his home nation as well as Hungary and Czech Republic. He has now ventured to play his Futsal in Spain and yet still he remains a threat in a more competitive league.

“I am feeling good. I am always optimistic and try to see things positively. I am looking forward to the tournament and all three matches will be balanced.”

Team mate and leader Peter Kozár shares Drahovsky’s enthusiasm and describes how he is feeling.

“Feelings are very good, the players are looking forward to it. There is a certain degree of responsibility because it is a European Championship and we have to rise to the occasion”.

Form:

W: 4-0 Moldova (13/04/2021 UEFA Futsal Euro)

D: 1-1 Azerbaijan (08/04/2021 UEFA Futsal Euro)

W: 5-0 Greece (07/03/2021 UEFA Futsal Euro)

W: 6-0 Greece (04/03/2021 UEFA Futsal Euro)

D: 4-4 Moldova (02/02/2021 UEFA Futsal Euro)

Squad List: 

Coach

Marián Berky

Goalkeepers

Marek Karpiak (SK Slavia Praha, Slovakia) and Richard Oberman (FK Lućenec, Slovakia)

Defenders

Anton Brunovsky (FK Lućenec, Slovakia), Matrtin Doša (FK Chrudim, Slovakia), Tomáš Drahovsky (FS Santa Coloma, Spain), Peter Kozár (SK Plzeñ, Czech Republic), Gabriel Rick (SK Plzeñ, Czech Republic)

Forwards

Daniel Čerovsky (FK Lućenec, Slovakia), Dominik Ostrák (FK Lućenec, Slovakia), Peter Serbin (FK Lućenec, Slovakia), Matús Ševčic (Slavia Praha, Slovakia), Patrik Zatovič (Piast Gliwice, Poland) and Martin Zdráhal (SK Plzeñ, Czech Republic).

CROATIA

Photo Credit – UEFA Official Programme

Croatia has stormed through qualifiers, topping group one with six wins in six games. They defeated Albania, Denmark and Ukraine.

The appointment of Mato Stankovic in 2011 saw the coach led his nation to a fourth place in the 2012 Euros on home soil. Alongside Russia, Croatia hold the record for the largest crowd attendance when 14,300 spectators watch their semi-finals in 2012, in Zagreb.

The tie did not go their way. Croatia would then lose their third-place play-off to Italy. That was the only time in the history of the tournament that Croatia finished among the top four.

After a disappointing non-qualification in 2018 they are back and ready to throw themselves in the thick of the action again. Croatia is in eight position in the Futsal World ranking.

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Marinko Mavrović was named as the head coach of the Croatian Futsal team in December 2020 and just over a year in the job he is aspiring to lead his team to success.

He will need a hand in help from his experienced players. Dario Marinović is one to look out for and Franko Jelovčić with his 50 international goals to his name. This is his fourth European championships.

Kyle Ballingall plays his Futsal for Perth Youth Futsal Saltires and is the current Scotland captain. When speaking to him, he was able to share his experience when playing in Croatia and when he came up Dutch side Hovocubo.

“Hovocubo won our UEFA Champions League group in 2019. A standout player was Mo Darri, who was so exciting to watch and top performer, who the crowd will enjoy watching.”

“Matej Horvat, Kristian Cekol and Luka Perić played at MNK Alumnus in Croatia when I was there in 2014. Perić is such a strong pivot, with an eye for goal. Horvat continues to win national titles in Croatia with Olmissum and Cekol playing with Futsal Dinamo.”

Facing Slovakia and Poland, the Croatians must fancy their chances are progressing in this edition. Russia will be a tough test but it promises to be a group full of flair and goals.

Form:

W: 7-0 Denmark (11/04/2021 UEFA Futsal Euro)

W: 3-0 Albania (07/04/2021 UEFA Futsal Euro)

W: 7-2 Ukraine (07/03/2021 UEFA Futsal Euro)

W: 3-2 Ukraine (03/03/2021 UEFA Futsal Euro)

W: 4-1 Denmark (30/01/2021 UEFA Futsal Euro)

Squad List:

Coach

Marinko Mavrović

Goalkeepers

Žarko Luketin (MNK Futsal Pula, Croatia) and Zoran Primić (HMNK Vrgorac, Croatia)

Defenders

Kristian Čekol (Futsal Dinamo, Croatia), Matej Horvat (MNK Olmissum, Croatia), Davor Kanjuh (Futsal Dinamo, Croatia) and Vedran Matošević (MNK Dobovec, Slovenia)

Forwards

Franko Jelovčić (Halle-Gooik, Belgium), Josip Jurlina (MNK Olmissum, Croatia), Dario Marinović (Jimmbee Cartagena, Spain), Tihomir Novak (MNK Dobovec, Slovenia), Luka Perić (FK Dobovec, Slovenia), Kristijan Postružin (MNK Olmissum, Croatia), Antonio Sekulić (MNK Olmissum, Croatia) and Josip Suton (Came Dosson, Italy),

https://twitter.com/HNS_CFF/status/1483393050575618055

Head-to-heads

Photo Credit – UEFA Official Programme

Russia vs Slovakia

Russia face Slovakia to open group C. Russia are the 1999 champions and Slovakia have a chance to make their finals debut. When facing Slovakia, Russia won EURO 2018 and 2020 World Cup qualifiers.

Total encounters

Russia wins 1 (1 goal)

Slovakia wins 0 (0 goals)

Draws 0

Poland vs Croatia

Poland face Croatia in group C opener. Croatia won 2001 finals meeting 2-1 but have missed out on the 2018 finals. Poland ended 17-year absence and are making their return.

Total encounters

Poland wins 0 (12 goals)

Croatia wins 2 (16 goals)

Draws 1

Croatia vs Russia

Russia is unbeaten in five competitive meetings against Croatia and most recently, Russia beat Croatia 4-3 in February 2020 to reach World Cup.

Total encounters

Croatia wins 0 (4 goals)

Russia wins 1 (6 goals)

Draws 1

Poland vs Slovakia

Poland play Slovakia in group C. Their last competitive meeting was 1999 and Poland won that game 13-5.

Total encounters

Poland wins 1 (13 goals)

Slovakia wins 0 (5 goals

Draws 1

Slovakia vs Croatia

Croatia have won all six competitive meetings and the 2020 World Cup qualifier.

Total encounters

Slovakia wins 0 (6 goals)

Croatia wins 5 (28 goals)

Draws 0

Russia vs Poland

Poland held Russia 1-1 in 2018 group stage when Michal Kubik equalised with nine seconds left to play.

Total encounters

Russia wins 0 (1 goal)

Poland wins 0 (1 goal)

Draws 1

To be continued…