With 12 rather than eight finalists, stretched across two cities – Budapest and Debrecen – for the first time and a slew of surprise results on the innovative black pitch, it was a new look for the 2010 UEFA European Futsal Championship, which ended on Saturday in Hungary. But one thing remained the same: the identity of the winners.
Spain beat Portugal 4-2 in the Debrecen final to claim their third straight European title, and fifth overall in seven competitions, having begun with a tournament record 9-1 defeat of debutants Belarus. Portugal were then beaten 6-1 and although Russia took them to penalties after a goalless quarter-final, Spain then overcame the Czech Republic 8-1 and in the decider dominated their neighbours for 37 minutes then, after a late scare, ensured another success. Goalkeeper Luis Amado, Kike, captain Javi Rodríguez, and Daniel all were victorious for the fourth time and although the latter pair have bowed out after scoring in the final, the emergence of the likes of Lin and Juanra suggests no end to their dominance.
Portugal made the final for the first time despite scraping through Group D on goal difference by drawing 5-5 with a spirited Belarus before their initial loss to Spain. But they put that unconvincing display, and the injury absence of Ricardinho, behind them when they sailed past Serbia 5-1 and defeated Azerbaijan on penalties. Spain were to deny them in the decider but with young players like Bebé, who took over from João Benedito in goal for the knockouts, João Matos and Cardinal emerging, there could be more finals to come.
Both the beaten semi-finalists surprised many people. Azerbaijan were in their first UEFA national-team final tournament but their charismatic team were born to it, from 42-year-old goalkeeper Andrey Tveryankin to Brazilian-born talents like Biro Jade, Thiago and the hefty but skilful pivot Serjão. They topped Hungary and the Czech Republic with ease in Group A then overcame Ukraine on penalties, Tveryankin sprinting the length of the pitch after his second save, at which point Rizvan Farzaliyev still had to convert the winner. The Czech Republic began by losing 6-1 to Azerbaijan and fell 4-0 down to Hungary but rallied for a sensational 6-5 win and then upset Italy on spot-kicks in the quarter-finals; in the latter two games coach Tomáš Neumann showed a boldness in his use of flying goalkeepers even if they were ultimately undone by Spain.
Italy and Russia came to Hungary tipped as challengers to Spain yet fell in the last eight – the earliest-ever exit for the Azzurri. As for the hosts, Hungary attracted two sell-out crowds in Budapest, in the game against the Czechs sparking joy, then tension, then relief and finally devastation for their fans, who despite that continued to turn out in numbers for a competition record aggregate crowd.
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