Germany’s Beachsoccer team have returned to team training as the first of the DFB’s national teams to do so. Before their reunion in Münster, all involved parties were tested for coronavirus infections – negative. In an interview with DFB.de, head coach Matteo Marrucci talks about the recent months and dares to look ahead to the ‘Superfinal’, set to take place at the beginning of September in Figueira da Foz, Portugal.
DFB.de: Mr. Marrucci, the Beachsoccer team is the first DFB national team to have taken the plunge and returned to training. A special hygiene protocol has been developed for the training course in Münster. What have the last few days been like for you?
Matteo Marrucci: Everything went smoothly, there were no problems. We knew before coming here which rules we would need to follow in order for the training course to be completed safely. Before meeting up in person, we had video meetings where every player and member of staff was made aware of the codes of conduct. We’ve adjusted our training plan to avoid unnecessary physical contact until the end of the course.
DFB.de: Everyone was tested for the virus upon arrival as well. What were the results?
Marrucci: All negative. The players and staff are all healthy.
DFB.de: When was the last time the team and the coaches saw each other and worked together?
Marrucci: Our last training course together was at the start of November last year. On 22 July last week we saw each other in person again for the first time since then. So it was more or less nine months.
DFB.de: That’s a long time. What have you been doing in the meantime?
Marrucci: Before the virus spread across Europe, we had a training course planned for March, where we wanted to prepare for a renowned tournament in El Salvador the following month. Around ten days before training was set to start, everything came to a halt – shutdown. After that we started to arrange video calls and virtual meetings with the players and the coaching team. We wanted to keep in touch with the players and help them keep in shape during the corona lockdown. We also reminded the players of our philosophy and showed them our plans for the coming season. We had no time to lose and we needed to emphasise and build on what we had taught them at training.
DFB.de: These virtual meetings were a weekly occurrence when it all started?
Marrucci: We divided the team into groups according to position and talked to them every ten days or so.
DFB.de: What was the focus of this training?
Marrucci: We devoted one full day to performance tests, which we developed with Münster University specifically for the demands in a beach soccer game. From Saturday, the focus was on developing our attacking game, set-pieces and various formations. Despite the preparations in our video meetings, it wasn’t easy to go straight into all the usual procedures. Now the players are at a good level again. The training game on Sunday showed us that the players are in good physical shape. The intensity in the game and over the whole weekend was surprisingly high.
DFB.de: Were there any players present who you’d called up for the first time?
Marrucci: Yes, even though we hadn’t had chance to watch any new players this year, goalkeeper Joey Brenner was with us for the first time. He made a good impression right away and gives us another option in goal. Aside from that, we called up the players with whom we’d ended the 2019 season. We continue to put our trust in them.
DFB.de: Let’s take a look ahead to the tournament, set to start in September if at all: the Superfinal. When do you expect to receive confirmation from the organisers that this tournament in Portugal can go ahead?
Marrucci: It’s not certain yet whether the Superfinal in Portugal will take place yet. We’re exepcting a decision in the next few days. The tournament is set to begin on 1 September. We will continue to prepare for it as though it were going ahead.
DFB.de: What do you expect from your team in Portugal’s Figueira da Foz?
Marrucci: To be honest, we’re not setting ourselves any targets at this stage. First and foremost, it’s just good to even be playing again. We want to get back on the pitch and put in good performances against the best teams in Europe. We don’t know how our opponents have prepared, or what shape they’re in, so we’re taking things one day at a time, one game at a time. The current format has six games to be played in six days, which poses a huge challenge for the players’ fitness. Last year, we finished ninth in the Europa league. It would be nice to at least retain this position. After the tournament, we’ll analyse our game and plan for the future.
DFB.de: You mentioned the opposition – is it true that for example Belarus have been training throughout the pandemic?
Marrucci: Yes, as far as I know that’s true. They didn’t stop training in Belarus. In Switzerland there was also only a short break from training for the national team. It will be interesting to see what kind of condition they’re in and what we can expect. We’re actually just hoping the tournament will go ahead. It’s almost a year since our last official international game. So it’s not just us, but every other team that are wondering what level they’re at and what aims they can set for themselves.
DFB.de: If we look beyond that, what challenges await you and your national team after the European championship?
Marrucci: After the Superfinal, if possible, we’ll start preparing for the 2021 season straight away. If the situation allows it, 2021 will be a year full of tournaments. In August, Russia are set to host the World Cup, for which we’ll play a qualifying tournament earlier in the year. We want to start preparing for that as soon as possible. In other words, our 2021 season starts in October. We want to go into the qualifiers in good form and good shape. Aside from that, another European Soccer League with a Superfinal at the end is planned to take place in its ‘normal’ format.
DFB.de: Do you think there’s a chance Germany could be realistically fighting for the title at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup next year?
Marrucci: At this stage we’re only thinking about the chance to even qualify (laughs). That’s our primary objective, because only the five best European teams qualify for the World Cup. Last year we lost to Poland in extra time on our way there, so I’m expecting another tough fight for those places. If we manage that, it would surely be one of the biggest surprises in Beach soccer’s recent history. That’s what we’re working towards.