It was held at 14:00, at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon (Switzerland), The draw of the European qualifying tournament for the 2024 Futsal World Cup.
San Marino was inserted in urn no. 3, enjoying the excellent results obtained in the qualifiers for the European Championships in Holland 2022 to leave behind Estonia, Malta, Scotland, Gibraltar, Austria and Northern Ireland – UEFA rankings in hand.
The host Federations of each of the six groups made up of four teams at the height of the Preliminary Round are already known. However, since each of these belonged to different ranking bands, it was decided in the first instance to associate each host with a grouping, placing them in the reference boxes. More difficult said than done: the hands of Claudio Negroni they immediately raffled the Germany, pertaining to the second band: inserted in Group A, the Germans went to occupy position two of the group.
Once the match-up phase of the national teams hosting the six groups was completed (in addition to Germany also Norway, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Sweden and Moldova), we proceeded with the draw of the remaining positions, moving towards the top of the class. Thus, the six teams with the lowest ranking among the 24 involved in the Preliminary Round were matched to their respective groups: with Germany there is Gibraltar. It was then the turn of pot 3 in which the National team of San Marino was inserted, like Switzerland, Cyprus and Andorra. A possible re-match of the challenge against the Pyreneans was excluded from the beginning, which guaranteed the Titans the landing in the play-offs of the Preliminary Round of the last Europeans.
Same goes for Bulgaria, with which the Biancazzurri obtained the first positive result in their history – as recalled by Laurent Morel during the draws. It was also not feasible to cross with Cyprus: all, in fact, were related to the same ranking band (the third of four).
He didn’t have to wait too long San Marino, drawn immediately by Claudio Negroni ed matched with Germany and Gibraltar. If the challenge with the Teutonics represents an absolute novelty, the Titans have already crossed paths with Gibraltar in qualifying for the 2014 European Championships and in two unofficial friendlies at Multieventi, more recently. It was June 2018 and in the double challenge developed over just over twenty-four hours, San Marino clearly imposed itself in the first (6-1 with goals from Moretti, Belloni, braces from Busignani and Stolfi) and lost to measure in the second (scored Moretti, Gasperoni and Busignani). In the only official precedent, however, it was Gibraltar who won at the end of a crazy game. It was played in Nice and ended 7-5 for the red and white. Regret all San Marino since after the lightning disadvantage, Michelotti’s hat-trick and Belloni’s brace had brought San Marino 5-2 at half-time. In the meantime, Clarke had also repeated, then the author of the sensational 5-5 in the 25th minute, at the end of an effective 300 seconds of San Marino blackout in which Cabrera and Chipolina also found the goal. Of the latter also the safety net in the 38th minute, after the overtaking signed by Lee Casciaro to capitalize on an inertia that robbed San Marino of its first useful result in the international field.
“I’m happy with the draw – comments the Technical Commissioner Roberto Osimani –, I like to be able to face opponents like Germany that have never been met before. I am convinced that at the level of structures and organization we will enjoy a top quality, after all the Germans are investing a lot in this sport. Suffice it to consider that they recently landed in a national tournament (Deutschen Futsal-Meisterschaft, ed) and to a semi-professional organization, after years of fragmentation at the level – which in any case remain a very broad regional basis for what is already in itself one of the most fragmented states in Europe. I foresee a constant and rapid development for Germany, a bit like what happened to France which until a few years ago shared the fate of the Preliminary Round with San Marino. Like us, the Germans reached the qualifying play-offs for the European Championships in 2022, surprisingly coming out with Switzerland “.
Osimani was already on the bench when San Marino beat Gibraltar 6-1: “We can consider the engagement with Gibraltar our reference match. The results obtained last year allowed us to significantly improve our ranking, leaping up to the 44th position which guaranteed us a place in pot 3. And with it the possibility of facing national teams more within our reach: excluding the ‘Austria, which I am happy to have avoided because it is growing fast. I am convinced that Gibraltar is not too sorry to have found San Marino in pot 3, it represents an opportunity for both of us and we will have to be ready. Of course, let’s not forget the Nice match, it would be nice to be able to redeem that defeat. Compared to the 2018 friendlies, something has changed and we, like all the other national teams, have entered new ones on a consolidated basis. It is still too early to say if and how we have improved, we will certainly know more in April ”.
It is not over here, because to complete the draw the first and second seeded players also entered the draw. Condition already partially exhausted in Group A, where Germany occupies the number two position. A play the favorite will ultimately be the Montenegro, a team that San Marino has already met in its history of continental qualifications as well as a couple of friendlies dated 2010 and during winter tournaments. There were two official precedents, the most recent on the road to the 2016 World Cup. On both occasions it was Umberto De Gregorio at the helm of the Titans and Uddevalla’s 0-3 also represents the last time in the international field for the Turin coach, who had coached the Biancazzurri also in the two-year qualifying period for Futsal EURO 2014. occasion, after the sensational 5-7 at the debut with Gibraltar of which it has been written, the Titans ran into a large defeat with the Montenegrins the following day (11-0).
“Although as a manager I have never crossed Montenegro in official matches – he comments Osimani –, we have often challenged them in these years in preparatory tournaments. They are a solid formation and technically, after all if they come from urn 1 there is a reason. Some believe that their cycle is coming to an end: what is certain is that we will face players of excellent quality and great experience, also gained thanks to the qualification for the Elite Round of qualification for the 2021 World Cup (curiously, the qualification always took place in Varna and in the presence of the San Marino international D’Adamo, designated for the Main Round mini-tournament) and participation in the group stage of the 2022 European Championships, in which they challenged the team as Italy, Finland and Belgium. In short, a formation to which the Preliminary Round actually begins to go “.
Years later, however, many things have changed. And if San Marino cannot present itself with the swagger of the clearly favored team, it is certainly ready to play its cards by leveraging the qualities that – just 22 months ago – make history and difference. Osimani is keen to get a message across, loud and clear: “We have to think about winning all the games we face. Our recent one is there to remind us: even the most popular teams can run into bad days and if this kind of opportunity presents itself, we will have to be ready to take advantage of it. A bit like what happened in Varna with Bulgaria, which at the time occupied the second bracket of the ranking in the preliminary round. If we didn’t have this approach, it would be difficult to think of scoring points even when the opportunity is at hand ”.
On the basis of Article 21 of the dedicated Regulations, the National team of San Marino will have to play their matches in a mini-tournament lasting six days in the period April 4-13, 2022. The one hosted by Germany, as announced on the official website of the DFB, will take place at the CU Arena in Hamburg. The days of competition are also predetermined, which will see the Titans debut with Montenegro and then face – already the following day – the hosts Germany. Final challenge with Gibraltar, forty-eight hours from the crossing with the Germans.
In the intentions of the futsal national team there is the idea of taking part in an international tournament in preparation for the official qualification commitments for the World Cup: “Should the opportunity arise to play an international tournament or friendly – to conclude Osimani –, we will not hesitate to take it in order to find ourselves as prepared as possible in April ”.
FSGC | Press office