Sadly, Sweden's European Championship dreams was shattered even before the qualifying was over.

Sadly, Sweden’s European Championship dreams was shattered even before the qualifying was over.

Those of you who follow my blog may have noticed my increasingly clear interest in futsal. It is a very interesting sport from a coach perspective as well as from a spectator point of view. This post will be about futsal, namely the Swedish men’s national team’s European Championship qualifier, which started yesterday.

I wrote “started” but could just as well have written “ran out”. For that was how it felt – The qualifiers ended before it could even begin.

European Championship qualifying of futsal is divided into groups of three or four teams, which is devoted to a weekend to play qualifying games in a host city. Sweden found itself in a group with Gibraltar and Montenegro. The group winner would advance to the next qualifying round, known as the Main Round, so in practice, neither team can afford a loss if the European Championship dream is to survive.

Yesterday evening, Sweden began their European Championship qualifiers against Montenegro, a team that the day before won with 8-1 against Gibraltar. Montenegro has a similar ranking as Sweden, so there are two equal countries in futsal, but the scoreboard was anything but fair. The game ended 11-4 to Montenegro, and Sweden’s dream of playing the first championship died after only 40 minutes of effective playing time.

How could it end like this, that a team with the ambition to take themselves all the way to the European Championship, so monumentally failed to reach the goal after just one game?

Sure, the qualifying system is tough and offers little room for error. You can practically be disqualified after a game, which is a big difference from many other sports when it comes to qualifying stages. In football / soccer, you often have the chance to correct your mistake later, but there are fewer qualifying games in futsal and thus less room for slip. Do you have a so-called bad day (although I dislike the term), all your goals can go to hell. It is part of the explanation.

Another explanation is the actual performance itself. Charbel Abraham, the coach, said afterwards that the poor performance stung more than the result. If Sweden lost a tight game against an opponent who is in a similar ranking position it is of course nothing to be disappointed about, but I think everyone reacts about the fact that Sweden so miserably failed with everything they had in mind. 11-4 are large numbers, one of the largest in the (short) Swedish futsal history. Abraham had been quite right that Montenegro is not a good team, but Sweden played poorly.

What was it that Sweden failed with in the game?

Since some time, Charbel Abraham has worked to make Sweden to play “a modern futsal, as they do on the continent”. I have long been a bit skeptical about this. Who says that the way they play futsal in Europe is our way to reach success? It is difficult, if not impossible, to copy another country’s philosophy and just paste it at our business. The best way is to pick several pieces of the cake so that it suits us. I believe that Sweden plays a kind of futsal we do not really feel comfortable with when we play against tougher opponents.

Sweden with Abraham tries to play a futsal where we control the game, with a kind of high press and play with a so-called high risk. It is all right if we have player types for it, but in yesterday’s qualifier, it was clear that we do not have these kind of players. Several of Montenegro’s goals was because we lost the ball in our build-up and they counter attacked. Montenegro could simply lie low in their defense, waiting for mistakes from Sweden and aim for the goal. An “ancient” kind of tactic that Charbel Abraham said “works in the domestic league, but not internationally”. Talk about getting a taste of their his own medicine.

As a coach, I think this: When you’re facing opponents who runs home, you need to create a lot of movement to pull them out of position and play where the space is. Several times was Sweden with the ball, not knowing where they would pass it, because the movement was non-existent. When the players were moving well, they were often reversed! How are they going to do something with the ball if they do not face the opponent’s goal? Another tactic would have been to shoot from distance to lure them out of their positions, but it was also scarce. In the second half, when Sweden desperately tried to catch up, they tested a joker game that did not end well. Has Sweden even practiced on this? A key rule for a coach is to never do anything in the game that you have not even been practicing before, but the players felt lost and desperate in the joker game.

I know that many have been critical to the national team selection, and perhaps rightly so, but I do not believe that Sweden had received a substantially better results with other players. Would we have brought in other players, we should have tested them earlier, not in an important European Championship qualifier. Abraham talked about that he wanted players who knew the tactics and can play according to the idea, the thing is just that it was the wrong tactic… I simply believe that Abraham’s idea needs to be corrected to fit our Swedish players. This is how we achieve success.

Sweden have missed their chance to go to the European Championship. The next championship is the World Cup in 2020. Time to try a new coach perhaps, with new ideas and a coach who can customize the idea for the players at hand? I know that many have talked about to bring foreign influences into Swedish futsal, but the question is whether we can afford it. Even though they invest in Swedish futsal, the development is still going slowly, I’m one of the few hundred who even has attended a futsal coaching course. It says a lot about the quality of the coaching education.

I have nothing against Charbel Abraham, but Swedish futsal must evaluate the work so far and see if it really is the right path we should go to reach success.

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Me (to the left) as an expert commentator at the futsal game between IFK Göteborg Futsal and Borås AIK.

This winter, I have had the pleasure to improve my knowledge in futsal, the indoor version of football / soccer that I’ve written about earlier here on the blog. I have followed the sport in a few years and I think it is interesting, especially from a coaching perspective since the importance of a good coach during the game is far more important than in football / soccer. A few months ago I went to the official coach education for futsal coaches and I must admit that I have a desire to take on a team to test my skills in this relatively new sport sometime in future.

As I wrote in the blog last week, I received a phone call from Tommy Moholi, board member and event manager in IFK Göteborg Futsal. He had by chance ended up on my blog and was wondering if I was interested to be an expert commentator to Saturday’s game between IFK Göteborg Futsal and Borås AIK at Lisebergshallen. Of course, a flattering request which I accepted, something I absolutely do not regret today with a few days’ distance to the game.

My colleague for the day, the main commentator Tobias BW Granberg, welcomed me with open arms and I think that we are the whole did a good job together. As Granberg said after the game, it’s always a bit difficult to start working with someone who is new since the natural chemistry is not there yet, but it was a good debut.

What I really liked in my role as an “expert” (I dislike the word, but I think you understand) is that I got the opportunity to explain what actually happens in a game. Often, viewers have many opinions concerning why a team plays in a certain way, but they rarely understand why a coach chooses to play the game like that. Here, I got the chance to explain why a team uses high or low pressure in their defense, the different types of defensive methods, when there is the right time to take a time out and so on. I simply had the opportunity to explain how a coach reasons in different situations, which I think the viewers liked.

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The national certificate that confirms that I have passed the official training course for Futsal Coaches in Sweden.

If they ask my once again, I think I need to be more cautious regarding how much I should talk. As a coach, I see many different things and it can easily happen that there will be too much information, so I need to take it easy the next time.

About the game, I think IFK Göteborg Futsal partly had faulty tactics for the clash against Borås AIK. The guests are the best team in the series offensively with their 70 goals, but has a defensive where there are gaps when they are being counter attacked. Had the home team decided to stand a little lower in their defense and waited for the opponents and after that decided to counter attack, I think their chances would have improved. Even though the game was ended in the final minutes, it was flattering result for IFK Göteborg Futsal.

Borås AIK was the better team over 40 minutes. They had a diverse offensive game with a controlled build-up play where they patiently waited out the mistakes from the opponents. They could play both the short and long ball while they had players who could dribble off their defender. Sure, they were a bit too much ball viewers in their defense, but if they make seven goals in every game that should not be a problem.

I know that IFK Göteborg Futsal before the season talked about how they wanted to embrace a different game philosophy, one where they were a more attacking team who controlled the events of the game. For me, it is obvious that the club has not got to the point where they want to be. It is far too stagnant and they have too few players who has the ability to dribble off their defender.

If they are to maintain this idea, they should either get the player types they need, or invest in to rejuvenate the team and give young players time to learn the game. But for that they also need time and that they practice way more often than they do today. If I am not misinformed they practice only twice a week. It is difficult to build a lasting game idea with only two sessions a week, so maybe it is better to start from the team’s strengths and try to strengthen them in a modified game idea? If they do not want to sign players or exercise more, that is. Only then will they get a futsal team that battles for gold medals again.

I want to thank Tommy Moholi for the opportunity to come, it was a fine initiative and fun to have been asked. I would also like to thank the entire Brocast team in general and Tobias BW Granberg in particular, who was very welcoming and were generous with his feedback. Thanks for that!

I have said before that I, in the future, want to try to be futsal coach, especially when I have the highest possible futsal coach education in Sweden. I’m still without a coach job for 2017, but the idea has always been to take on a new football / soccer team. But after Saturday’s match, I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe a futsal team is my new address?

Only the future will tell…

 

For those of you who does not know what do to tomorrow – At 1 PM I will be in studio as an “expert commentator” when the swedish Champions, IFK Göteborg Futsal, will face the top team Borås AIK.

I will talk about my view of futsal from a coach perspective, the future of the sport and be an “expert”.

I do not know what it takes to be an “expert”, but you can nevertheless watch the game Saturday 14 th January 1 PM at the link below.

https://ifkgoteborgfutsal.solidtango.com/live/ifk-goteborg-futsal-boras-aik