While the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 preliminary round begin on Thursday the big guns going straight into next month's main qualifiers have been in friendly action this week with Russia gaining a historic victory against Brazil and Spain drawing twice against Portugal.
Russia had lost all 13 fixtures with Brazil before facing off in Ekaterinburg on Monday but put that right with a 3-1 win. MFK Viz-Sinara Ekaterinburg's Dmitry Prudnikov put Russia ahead just before the break and later restored the lead after Rafael had equalised. Sergei Sergeev confirmed the victory. Two days later in Tyumen, the world champions turned the tables with a 3-1 win – despite trailing at the break to a Pula double penalty – to ensure spoils were shared in a two-match series played in memory of former Russia striker Konstantin Eremenko, who died last year.
Sergei Skorovich, Russia coach, said: "It should be noted that Brazil have one of the best goalkeepers of the world – Tiago. In addition, over the past three years they have only lost two games, one of which was two days ago. They are very strong opponnents, and it is difficult to beat them twice in a row."
Serbia and the Netherlands are among Russia's opponents in the qualifying round from 24 to 27 February, when holders Spain go to Azerbaijan and Portugal are in Poland. In a rematch of the 2010 final in Hungary, Spain – who beat Brazil in the autumn to win the Grand Prix – faced Portugal in two friendlies and both times finished level.
The first game in Badajoz was a thriller in which both teams led twice but it ended 4-4, Borja completing his hat-trick with the last equaliser for home side Spain. They then travelled to Campo Maior in Portugal and drew 2-2, Spain falling two down to Pedro Cary and Gonçalo Alves in the first 16 minutes only to level bv the break thanks to Álvaro and Miguelín.
Croatia, ensured their finals place early next year as hosts welcomed African champions Libya for two friendlies. In the first game Croatia won 3-2 in Osijek – Dario Marinović, Dean Banić and Matija Dulvat scoring – and prevailed 1-0 in the second fixture in Vijus thanks to a 37th-minute Tihomir Novak goal. In other friendlies, Italy defeated Serbia 2-1 and 2-0, Ukraine won 4-1 and 4-2 in Poland, Belgium lost 4-1, 4-2 and 7-1 in Iran, 2010 semi-finalists Azerbaijan secured a 5-1 victory in Belarus before the home side turned the tables 6-4.
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