Holders FC Barcelona, last season's runners-up and 2007 winners MFK Dinamo, Kairat Almaty and Iberia Star Tbilisi clinched UEFA Futsal Cup finals places at the weekend after topping their elite round groups.
On Saturday, Barcelona beat Group A hosts FC Litija in Slovenia to come through with 28 goals from their three wins. Group B went to Kairat, overcoming KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac 5-0 in Serbia to reach their fifth semi-final. A third host team lost the Group C decider, Murcia FS leading twice but defeated 4-2 by Dinamo.
However on Sunday one home team did go through: sole competition ever-presents Iberia Star will make their finals debut thanks to a thrilling 7-4 defeat of SL Benfica. The Portuguese outfit had levelled three times and at that stage looked set to pip both the hosts and Győri ETO FC. UEFA.com rounds up the reaction from all four qualifiers, one of whom will stage the knockout finals in late April.
Marc Carmona, Barcelona coach
A lot of merit has to be given to what will be our second successive qualification for the four-team UEFA Futsal Cup finals. Our last game against FC Litija was very difficult. They played really well but their level of performance wasn't surprising to us at all. They had that extra motivation of playing at home. It cost us a lot of effort to get the result against them but overall I think our qualifying for the final tournament is justified.
Ari Santos, Barcelona defender
I'm delighted with how the team played over the past few days. We've returned Barça to where they were last season. We only conceded one goal in the three games we played in Lasko. Litija made things very difficult for us in that last game.
Faustino Pérez, Dinamo coach
We outplayed Murcia in every detail. The lads tried to put out of their minds the fans, who were against us. After their goal we started to attack with more commitment and desire. I am very happy with my team, with our discipline, which helped us to overcome difficult circumstances. I want to congratulate my players because they achieved our objective.
Gennadi Garagulya, Dinamo goalkeeper
We were a bit too nervous in the first half, we conceded first. But we were able to change the game after that, we created more chances. After Gustavo was sent off [bringing substitute Garagulya into the game] it was hard, but we stood firm. I could breathe with relief only after the final whistle. The tension was just incredible, the fans drove Murcia to score. I think I will remember this match for the rest of my life.
Sergio Benatti, Iberia Star coach
In the form of SL Benfica we had very strong opponents. The 4-4 scoreline made them the logical side to go through. But Iberia Star are now not only strong technically but psychologically and we were ready to beat them. Győri were tough opponents for us. They have a good coach and most of their players are well trained in the Spanish futsal school. We drew, but I hope next time we could won against them. The first win against Luparense with a comfortable 6-1 score gave us confidence in ourselves. We prepared in the correct way before every game and were sure that we could do it.
Goga Altunashvili, Iberia Star captain
I want to say thanks to all of our fans and congratulations for this victory. I can't speak now, and don't know how to speak. Before the start of the tournament we thought that every match would be like a final. In fact this is what happened, everything was decided in the last game. Iberia twice have been one step from the finals and now our third try was successful.
João Carlos Barbosa, Kairat coach
Some people think that we were lucky and we got easy opponents in the elite round. Yes, we could be named as favourites, but other teams met the requirements of these high-level matches as you could see in our fixtures against Slov-Matic Bratislava, EP Chrudim and Ekonomac Kragujevac. Our team fulfilled our plan and won every match here.
Now something more is waiting for us. I mean the finals. We hope that with our experience we can get positive results. We have time to get ready for this and the main thing is to follow our plan.
Barcelona and Dinamo are great teams, they both have won the trophy before, but we have not. Our best result is third place. Iberia Star Tbilisi from Georgia won a group with many strong teams and this is the an indication of their strength.
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