Overall Monday was a pretty relaxed affair owing to our first game not being until Tuesday. We managed to watch plenty of futsal though, seeing the Portuguese and Russians play each other in the women’s competition in the morning.
We had another training session in the afternoon in some pretty tough conditions. We were at an old Olympic training centre from what we guess was the 1992 games. Although probably an impressive venue then, it seems to have been virtually abandoned for quite a while. The windows in the ceiling magnified the sun onto a pitch which was nothing more than painted concrete. Nonetheless we had a productive session even with the stifling atmosphere and unforgiving surface.
After a quick shower we then went to watch the two other teams in our group play each other (Vern vs. Örebro). From the start, the Croatians dominated, putting heaps of pressure on the Swedes who struggled to string many passes together. It ended up being a very one-sided game with Vern winning 9-0, but it gave us invaluable insight into the style, formations and tactics of both sides. In a game as strategic as futsal, it was a great opportunity for us to adapt our game plan accordingly and assess the strengths and weaknesses of our group-stage opponents.
Next we wandered over to the central venue where the showpiece game of the day was about to kick off. Reigning Spanish champions and hosts Malaga were taking on Ruppin Academic Center from Israel, and we were all treated to a masterclass. The tempo, movement and skills of the Spaniards was incredible and vividly demonstrates the value of having a nation and culture which is brought up on futsal. The Israelis were dogged and did themselves proud, keeping it close for a while. But there was only ever going to be one winner, and Malaga won 6-1.
We returned to the hotel for tea and then had a quick team meeting before bed where we discussed tactics and our schedule for tomorrow.
While most of us were tucked up in bed, Alex Tringham finally arrived around 1am after initially being dropped off at the wrong hotel. Our team was completed just in time. For us, the competition was about to begin.