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Futsal Focus was not able to attend Northern Ireland’s first ever international friendly on home soil against Scotland but we asked Uruguayan coach Martin Perciavalle who leads Saints & Scholars in the Republic of Ireland and is a part of the Football Association of Ireland’s Deaf Futsal coaching staff to give his thoughts on what he saw at last weekend’s historic event for Futsal in Northern Ireland.
What a joy to watch live international futsal!
What a joy to watch, once again, live international futsal on the island of Ireland!
The last time this happened was in 2014 when at club level the preliminary round of the UEFA Futsal Cup was played in Dublin and at the national team level, I have to go back to the year 2011 when the Republic of Ireland hosted the Group F qualification round for the 2012 UEFA Futsal EURO tournament.
Last weekend, Northern Ireland played for the first time ever, two friendly matches on Irish soil against Scotland. This event marked a before and after in Irish futsal not only for the Irish FA but also for the coaches, players and their followers.
For those of us who love futsal and have been keeping the sport alive in the Republic of Ireland for many years now, we are very happy to see the continuous efforts that the Irish FA and Jonathan Michael are making in the development of the sport. Undoubtedly, the solid steps were taken over the last years; the creation of a national league, the national team, the national women’s team, national primary competitions, all of which are going to pay off in the not too distant future.
The Northern Ireland team is in full development mode, in the process of learning and discovery as they go but with enormous potential, played for the first time ever at home. Scotland on the other hand, a more developed team and several years of experience also came to this game with a more than interesting added value.
In my opinion, the two games were totally different, the first one, a much more physical game, both teams wanting to demonstrate and prove things. N.Ireland playing at home needed to show that on the pitch and Scotland was not going to let their opponents run through them. Many fouls committed during the first and second half of the game to cut any possible break into an attack and 10 meters penalties were decisive in this match which ended Northern Ireland 6 – Scotland 8.
Once the nerves of the debut were over, the second match showed more interesting developments reflecting the hard work going on behind the scenes by both nations to educate and develop their players. The match that had everything, N.Ireland went up quickly and seemed to be unstoppable, they were playing very well, they combinations were excellent and their movements without the ball were making a difference. Scotland, little by little began to tactically settle in, to finish the first half up in the scoreboard. Both teams came out for the second half with all they had, leaving nothing behind. The positional attack could not be observed much, and the transitions began to take on a bigger role in the game.
Every goal that Scotland scored was a stab in the back for N.Ireland, but they never let their heads drop, in their mind, they knew they were hurt but not dead. It was then when the best futsal of N.Ireland was seen on the pitch and if only a few more minutes were played, they would have won the game, they were mentally there. It was a draw at 6-6 but with a victory flavour.
The team led by Jonathan Michael has to continue working the way they are doing it, taking baby steps and continuing with the process of individual and collective development to have the necessary foundation to compete at international tournaments. I can truly see huge potential in this team, they have grown a lot in the last year and a half, with young players that are going to be talked about in the future.
This Northern Ireland national futsal team is a very united group, full of character and heart!