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When the qualification rounds for the 2023 UEFA Under-19 Futsal Championship kicked off in January, apart from finalists host nation Croatia, a total of 35 (out of 54) UEFA member national teams entered the qualifying stage.
From the British and Irish Isles, the only representative nation in the draw was England. Unfortunately, the other associations have yet to create U19 teams, Wales did have a team in 2022 but suspended it after entering the 2022 U19 EURO competition, failing to progress past the preliminary round in 2021 due to finishing in second place in their group to Andorra. Our sources tell us that the next Association to potentially launch a U19 national team is Northern Ireland but this is unconfirmed information. We emailed the Association for comment but received no reply to this question. England’s return to the international stage, however, has been a successful campaign, with lots to learn from. The U19s won their preliminary round group, going undefeated against Lithuania, Malta, and Estonia. Progressing to the main round, they faced tougher opposition such as the group hosts Italy, Turkey, and the Czech Republic. The group kicked off with a disappointing opening game result, nerves showed in this fixture, and Turkey defeated the U19s 6-2. This was a match the players and coaching staff would have been aiming to win, defeat meant any hopes of progressing to the finals were low at this point. Based on their performances against Italy and the Czech Republic, the players learned quickly from this hiccup and didn’t allow the result to drag them down. England went into their match against the group favourites Italy and give their everything until the final whistle, securing a point in the dying seconds, drawing 2-2. In their last match, they faced another nation with a long history of futsal, the Czech Republic, and although they finished bottom of their group due to losing this match 3-4, they can only be proud of their performance, and their efforts in this group. Applaudits have to go to every club who were represented within this group of players. The clubs drove these players forward in their development despite the setbacks that have affected English international futsal in recent years. England can be confident that the next group of players who come along will look to improve upon this experience. The question now is what happens to this group of players? The FA has yet to make a statement neither has England Futsal concerning the future of this group of players and if the re-establishment of the senior national team will happen anytime soon. The likelihood is slim at this time, unfortunately, However, at the next U19 Futsal championship it would be wonderful to see each nation within the U.K. represented, and the Republic of Ireland as well.
Going to the finals in September this year are Croatia (competition hosts), Finland, France, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Ukraine. Six of these nations made it to the final tournament of the last Futsal Championship. Poland and Romania competed in the last competition but they are replaced by Slovenia who topped Poland in their group on goal difference and Finland who won Group 4 and Romania finished in third place in Group 2 which was won by Ukraine. Spain came close to not qualifying this time, drawing with Hungary, the Hungarians kept the pressure on Spain in the group until the final fixture. Although, Spain got the important goal they needed to secure progression on goal difference. It will be interesting to see how they do in the final tournament, the holders will have to improve their performances significantly if they are to retain their title. I look forward to seeing how France plays in the competition, they played very well in the main-round qualifiers, and they may just push for a final spot this year.
Source of the main picture: The main picture is the French national futsal team at the source is the France-Futsal.com
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