Futsal Euro 2018: Scotland seek respectability in Georgia

Scotland manager Mark Potter congratulates a Gibraltar opponent
Mark Potter (centre) is Scotland's manager

Scotland embark upon a quest to qualify for futsal's Euro 2018 championship this week when they take part in preliminary qualifying in Georgia.

The Scots' group includes the hosts, Switzerland and Israel, with only the winners progressing to the next stage.

However, Scotland manager Mark Potter said: "Realistically, we'd like to win a game.

"We conceded 25 goals in three games last time and scored two. We'd like to be more competitive than that."

Two years ago in Sweden, they lost 13-0 to the hosts as well as suffering 6-1 defeats by Armenia and Israel and they go into these qualifiers as bottom seeds.

"With Israel being in the group, that gives us the best opportunity to gauge progress or otherwise," said Potter, whose side beat Northern Ireland 8-2 in their most recent match.

"We'd like to have more of an influence on the group with a view to getting a Uefa ranking, which would get us out of the bottom group of seeds in the future."

Potter is in no doubt his squad has improved in the intervening period, but with the sport - a version of five-a-side football - very much in its infancy in Scotland, putting together a group of players who could all get time off work for this week away has been an issue.

Queen's Park midfielder Craig McLeish
Craig McLeish plays in League One with Queen's Park as well as Scotland's futsal side

One player who will be in Georgia is Craig McLeish, who also plays for Scottish League One club Queen's Park and is a coach at one of the Scottish Football Association's performance school's - Braidhurst High in Motherwell.

McLeish says futsal, as well as being a burgeoning sport in its own right, can play a role in the development of young footballers and has incorporated it into his coaching programme.

"In this country, we're years away from it being a mainstream sport where that would be what you solely would play," he told BBC Scotland.

"But I think we need to take advantage of it as a development tool for our young players.

"The benefits you get from it when you look at the stats about the numbers of touches, the intensity - Messi and Ronaldo attribute a lot of their success to the quick-thinking and quick play they learned playing futsal.

"With Project Brave (the SFA's blueprint for youth development) it's going to be part of the programme there and they're looking at winter futsal leagues."

In the short term, both McLeish and Potter's focus is on trying to put the national futsal team on the map, starting with the game against Switzerland on Tuesday afternoon.

They play Georgia the next day before a final match against Israel on Friday.

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