Sports Gazette

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

Panu Autio: “We are here to compete”

Posted on 24 January 2022 by Felipe Lima

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Finland have arrived at this 12th edition of the UEFA Futsal Euro tournament, and like Slovakia, Georgia and Bosnia & Herzegovina are debutants at this level.

They were placed into Group B where they would be facing Slovenia, Kazakhstan and two-time champions Italy.

In matchday one, arguably the result of both matches came as a surprise to many. Slovenia held contenders Kazakhstan to a 4-4 draw after being in front for most of the match.

Finland also spent majority of their match ahead but after a late goal shared the points with Italy in a 3-3 draw.

Looking ahead to their second match in the group stage and with all still to play for, Slovenia face Italy and Finland face Kazakhstan.

Following Finland’s 3-3 draw against Italy on Thursday, their captain, Panu Autio spoke to the Sports Gazette about the nation’s journey in Futsal, the 2022 Futsal Euros and how they are looking to progress in the tournament.

“It was the first game for us in the final tournament so in the beginning everybody was super excited. Maybe, a little bit nervous and maybe we didn’t have the tranquillity with the ball that we should have had throughout the whole game”.

“After the game against Italy, we were a little disappointed as we were leading and we had the chance to take the three points but for sure it was still a good result for us”.

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We are here to compete

The progress in Futsal in Finland and within their international squad has been noticeable, especially in the last decade. Autio spoke about how even though they come in as debutants, they want to leave their stamp and compete with anyone they encounter.

“We discussed as a team before the tournament started and we all agreed that we want to take results. We don’t just want to participate and enjoy the bright lights. We are here to compete with anyone and we want to show everything that we have”.

“It’s been a long process with Mico Martic as he has been our coach for nine years now. I would dare to say that we have created something quite special. The way we play is different than many other teams”.

Coach Mico Martic has been able to use his experience, knowledge and passion for the game to encourage his team to achieve the results they are after. Autio emphasised on how influential he has been.

“He is taking the Finnish Futsal to the next level. I think the passion that he has for Futsal is huge. He is a Futsal nerd that loves Futsal so much, more than anything”.

“Mico has somehow managed to spread this “Futsal virus” all over Finland. The group of Futsal maniacs is ever-growing, thanks to many things but Mico has had a huge influence”.

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No fear and freedom for expression

Autio has also been in the game a long time. When asked about his experience and how he is able to pass it on to younger team mates he highlights the importance of having an environment where players are able to learn and express themselves.

“We are always trying to help the younger players. We have a very strong organisational culture in the team. Each player takes a big responsibility of taking their time to learn the game”.

“After each game, in the same evening we go back and watch the game together as a team. It’s not an official video meeting but it’s something that us players want to do together and we take our own initiative to do it”.

“We have had this tradition for a long time and it has helped us create this philosophy of how we see Futsal and for the younger players I believe these sessions are super important”.

“I spoke to the guys before the game and I said that everyone is going to make mistakes so when that happens, I remind them that we have another  four players on the court who are there to cover up”.

“It’s very important to have this psychological safety in the team where you are allowed to make those mistakes”.

Looking ahead to Kazakhstan

Autio will lead his team out onto the Martini Plaza in Groningen to face Kazakhstan, who are 7th in the Futsal World Ranking. Kazakhstan are seen as real contenders boasting a squad with some of the best players in the world.

“We are aware of how they play and know their players well from the World Cup and the Euros”.

“They have been within the top teams in Europe for a while now. They have some of the best players in the world with huge character. We have to be ready for that. Let’s see how we can take advantage”.

This advantage could come from set-piece opportunities. 21-year-old Henri Alamikkotervo scored a long-distance brace where both goals came from set-piece situations.

If Finland can reproduce their high-level performance in the upcoming match against Kazakhstan, they could go on to face Slovenia in the last group match with a great opportunity for achieving classification.

Finish Futsal is on the up and this group of players have already made history by making it to the tournament. Could they go even further and inspire the new generation by qualifying to the play-offs?

Use the links to find all the information on the teams and fixtures of this 2022 Futsal Euros using the links below.

2022 UEFA Futsal Euro Preview (Part 1)

2022 UEFA Futsal Euro Preview (Part 2)

2022 UEFA Futsal Euro Preview Group A (Part 3)

2022 UEFA Futsal Euro Preview Group B (Part 4)

2022 UEFA Futsal Euro Preview Group C (Part 5)

2022 UEFA Futsal Euro Preview Group D (Part 6)

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