Futsalroos coach Miles Downie in action during a training session in the Solomon Islands. Photo Credit: Damian Briggs/Football Australia

The Futsalroos begin their 2024 AFC Futsal Asian Cup campaign against Uzbekistan on Wednesday April 17.

Ahead of the tournament, coach Miles Downie said that he tries to avoid the use of traditional tournament expectations as a measurement, opting for a different approach.

“I think the expectations… I try to avoid,” he said to The Inner Sanctum prior to the squad’s departure for the tournament.

“What I expect is excellent performances. As much as we’ve got goals to do well and qualify for the World Cup, the reality is no one can control results.

“I rarely talk about wanting or chasing a particular result because it can be a bit of a false God.

“If we’re performing well, if we’re doing the things that I’ve asked of the boys, then I’ll be very happy regardless of the result.

“But if they do that, there’s a very good chance they’ll win.”

Futsalroos player Wade Giovenali highlighted the importance of a strong lead-in camp to these tournaments, especially with the squad coming up against professional players, which the Futsalroos are not.

Downie said that it comes down to making the most of every opportunity they have together, trying to get good information across as rapidly as possible.

“I’m very much about equipping players with tools, helping them [in knowing] what they’re trying to achieve at any moment [and] where they’re going to get the relevant information that’s going to tell them what’s going to happen next.

“That process helps accelerate their understanding of the game and enables them to compete like full-time professionals.

“For a lot of teams, that sort of understanding comes almost by accident, by volume, but we don’t have that luxury.”

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The AFC Futsal Asian Cup also doubles as qualification for the World Cup, and Downie said that to qualify for the World Cup would mean so much to the players and would have a massive impact around Australia.

Downie is a former Futsalroo himself, and having represented his country as a player, he knows the responsibilities that come with the honour.

He said he is quite conscious of the responsibility as a coach, and noted that his approach has changed as he has stepped into the coaching side of the squad.

“I think because I was younger, I was certainly aware of the responsibility of representing your country, but I’ve become really acutely aware of the responsibility I’ve got to have the Futsalroos perform well, play well, and be something that people can be proud of.

“That responsibility is with me every single day, and it’s something that drives me and has me very excited.

“With this group, it’s a special group, because all the boys do understand the responsibility that they have representing their country both on and off the pitch.

“The way they conduct themselves, the energy and effort they put in, the time and respect they have for everyone around them when they’re off the pitch, I feel like they’re always representing their country and that’s something I pride myself on.” 

Downie also had a message to send to everyone to help them get behind the Futsalroos during not only the Asian Cup, but going forward as well post-tournament.

“I think anyone who comes and sees the elite level game falls in love with it. Watching on TV can be good but it isn’t quite as exciting as when it’s live. 

“Having said that, the games can be decided in the final seconds. We managed to qualify with 10 seconds left on the clock. Games are often decided in the final moments, which makes it incredibly exciting. The margins are fine and it’s exciting to the end.”

He also talked about the value that the Futsalroos provide, not just on the pitch, but off-pitch as well, especially in football.

“It gets people interested, it gets people playing the game, it motivates people to put on competitions, and to run teams.

“When you look at the Socceroos and the Matildas, there’s a lot of players that have grown up playing Futsal. Now is that the reason why they’ve reached the level they have? No, but it’s a key part of their journey.

“You look at [Josh] Nisbet, who’s recently made his debut for the Socceroos, he grew up being coached by Bruno Cannavan playing futsal, who’s now my assistant coach.

“Recently, Leah Blayney’s U-20 [Young Matildas] squad, 12 of those 14 players from New South Wales played in the NSW Premier League for futsal.

“The game is an unbelievable sport in its own right, an incredible development tool for football. The number of players who go on to be high-level players or professional players in football that have grown up or spent their off-season playing futsal, it really is a good developmental tool.”

The Futsalroos begin the AFC Futsal Asian Cup against Uzebkistan at 7pm AEST (4pm local) in Thailand.

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