Norway secured victory on their UEFA European Futsal Championship debut as the preliminary round began with Andorra, Finland and Cyprus also triumphant.
Four teams are taking part in the competition for the first time and two of those began their campaigns today, hoping to be among the six group winners going through to next month's main qualifying round. Norway hit the ground running in Group F in Dublin, defeating Israel 7-3 after Abdurahim Lajaab had put them ahead on six minutes. Oz Sabag equalised for Israel but chances went begging and a one-minute three-goal burst later in the first half put Norway in control and Lajaab, who made it 4-1, completed the scoring with his hat-trick strike.
Lajaab told UEFA.com: "It was a tough match, very well contested despite the fact that we scored seven goals and them just three. But I think they were a bit unlucky and we took most of our chances. I'm happy with my performance, and I hope to keep it up for the rest of the tournament."
Hosts the Republic of Ireland made a promising start when Anthony Kane gave them a tenth-minute lead against Andorra, but Diogenes Lino Baptista swiftly equalised and despite stout Irish defending, Óscar Blacells won the game for Andorra with less than three minutes left.
Andorra coach Xavier de la Rosa said: "It was a very difficult match, we tried and we tried, but they were well organised in defense. We shot on target many times, but today nothing was going in until the end. I'm happy because the team fought mightily and even if we hadn't scored at the end I couldn't have complained; they gave their all." Ireland will hope to bounce back against Norway on Friday after Andorra play Israel.
Group E hosts Finland made a superb start in their bid to get past this stage for the third edition running as they saw off Albania 9-0 in Tampere. They were 5-0 up through five different scorers at half-time then in the second period ElPozo Murcia FS's Panu Autio struck a hat-trick and Mikko Kytölä completed a dominant Finland performance.
Autio said: "I wouldn't say Albania are bad, we were just great today and took our chances. We have practiced a lot of set-plays, free-kicks and corners, and now the training paid off as we scored four times from set-pieces in the first half." Coach Jouni Pihlaja added: "I was a little bit surprised we crushed Albania so easily."
In the earlier game, San Marino suggested an upset could be on the cards on their competitive futsal bow as Gabriele Capicchioni gave them a fifth-minute lead against Cyprus. However, Cyprus did not panic and in a two-minute spell later in the half the excellent Kostas Polyviou scored either side of a Lambros Vassiliou goal, and they went on to win comfortably 5-2 against a team fielding former motorcycling world champion Manuel Poggiali. On Saturday, Finland face San Marino and Albania play Cyprus while the other four preliminary round groups begin on Friday.
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