The US National Arena Soccer Team found out its 2017 WMF World Cup group mates at a live drawing Tuesday morning in Tunisia.
Spain, Senegal, and India will share Group D with the USNAST. The US will open against Spain on October 7, followed by India on October 9 and Senegal on October 10.
“I think the draw went really well all things considered,” said USNAST General Manager Bernie Lilavois. “Spain is one of the top four or five teams in Europe, India will be completely revamped from the last World Cup and Senegal is probably the team we know the least about. We won’t take any lightly and I’ve already tracked down video on all three and we’ll head into the competition with a good understanding of how each team likes to play.”
Spain, which has had a minifootball program for five years, went 1-2 in June’s European Minifootball Federation Euro 2017 tournament, including a 3-0 loss to eventual champion Russia. Spain also beat Turkey and lost convincingly, 5-0 to Slovakia.
“Although our goal is to be among the top eight of the tournament we will not put limits on our aspirations,” said Esteban Nanfro, President of Asociacion Espanola de Minifutbol.
Senegal is newer to minifootball. “This is the first time we are participating in an international competition and our objective is to qualify for the second round,” said Cheikh Mbacké Ndiaye, Chairman of the Committee for Promotion and Development of Mini Football in Senegal. “After that we will see the rest.”
India will certainly be looking for a stronger finish than in the 2015 WMF World Cup where a young, wide-eyed team lost three games by a combined score of 83-1.
The US will have to re-calibrate its game for minifootball. The field in Tunisia will have artificial turf, but no boards, as the game of minifootball is customarily played. Even with its unfamiliarity of minifootball, the USNAST still seems likely to manage its way through Group D and advance to the Round of 16.
“Bottom line is we are defending World Cup Champions and everyone will be trying to beat us,” said Lilavois. “You don’t win by where you were placed in the tournament, you have to take care of business on the field and that’s exactly what we are looking to do.”