Portugal secured their berth at UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 when they clinched first place in their qualifying round group with a game to spare on Friday while holders Spain, former champions Russia and Italy, plus Azerbaijan and Slovenia also booked their places with second wins.
UEFA.com rounds up the action from the six groups, from which the winners and five best runners-up after Sunday's deciding games join hosts Croatia in next year's finals.
Spain recorded a comfortable 5-0 defeat of Kazakhstan to follow their 4-0 win against France. The late goal by Julio Cordeiro, his second of the game, was proof that Spain – missing several of the players that have helped them dominate in recent years – had the ability to score at any moment. He said: "The objective of the first half was for us to keep the ball, which we succeeded in doing. Second half, we gave them more chance to control the ball, so they were able to attack more. But in spite of this, we won comfortably."
Mini-tournament hosts Azerbaijan, fourth on their finals debut last year, are also on six points, behind Sunday opponents Spain on goal difference, after beating France 4-2. Only 2-1 up at the break, Azerbaijan pushed hard in the second half and Biro Jade and Vitaliy Borisov made the game safe despite a late French push. Azerbaijan captain Rizvan Farzaliyev said: "First of all, I want to thank the fans for their huge support. The first half was really hard. In the second half we needed a quick goal, and got one." Whatever happens when Spain play Azerbaijan, both will at least go through as one of the five best runners-up.
That calculation also applies to Russia after they defeated Serbia 3-0. Having beaten 1999 champions Russia in last year's finals, Serbia were hoping for a repeat, having been held by the Netherlands yesterday. But after a goalless half hour, key Serbia man Marko Perić was sent off and immediately Dmitri Prudnikov struck, adding a second before Pula's clincher. "We made a great game," Pula said. "We were very focusedand we did not make any mistakes."
Netherlands moved three points ahead of Serbia, and within two of Russia, by defeating Finland 5-2, though it was level with five minutes left until Adil Zouthane added his second of the game with a great free-kick and Jeroen de Groot struck twice. Marcel Loosveld's side would qualify for the first time in seven years with a win against Russia on Sunday and even a draw could prove enough. Loosveld said: "Today we played for qualification and not for the public like in the last game; we played very well against Serbia but it was a draw. I want our victories to be an advertisement for futsal. Against Russia it will be very difficult for us. I like how they play."
Portugal, the 2010 runners-up, secured their second group win with a 5-1 defeat of Belarus. That side had held Portugal 5-5 in the 2010 finals and looked to be holding out well until the superb Ricardinho opened the scoring on 17 minutes and his team streaked away in the second half. Jorge Bras, the Portugal coach, told UEFA.com: "The first game always is difficult and today we played much better than yesterday. That was a good game, but we still can play better. In these tournaments match after match should be better and we want to be perfect. I hope that on Sunday it will be our best game here."
However, they will not need to win it after Portugal were confirmed in first place by hosts Poland's 2-2 draw with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Whereas Poland came from two down to draw 2-2 with Belarus on Thursday, FYROM lost 3-1 to Portugal and then found themselves overrun by the hosts, who went two up at the break. But in a reversal of yesterday, when Poland came from 2-0 down to draw, they were pegged back by Branislav Ljubomir and Darko Rangotov. Still, Poland are second and a win against Portugal on Sunday could still take them through.
Czech Republic moved three points clear with a 5-3 victory against neighbours Slovakia in the meeting of the Matchday 1 winners. It was 2-2 at the break but in the course of the 26th minute, Michal Mareš struck for the Czech Republic, Slovakia had Voitech Várady sent off and Lukáš Rešetár exploited the one-player advantage. David Frič extended the lead and although Peter Kozar pulled one back, the die was cast. Czech coach Tomáš Neumann told UEFA.com: "I am very happy. Games between the Czechs and Slovakia are always very hard. I think that we wanted the victory more, because we concentrated much better and had more chances while Slovakia were very nervous."
Hosts Romania, beaten 6-5 by Slovakia on Thursday, revived their chances with a 3-1 defeat of impressive futsal newcomers Norway. Ioan Al-Ioanei scored early for Romania but they were lucky to keep out Norway for the rest of the first half and home goalkeeper László Klein did well to maintain the lead. After the break, though, Romania rallied and Florin Matei and Emil Răducu secured the points before Christoffer Dahl's consolation. The Czechs are thereby not yet definitely through as they could finish third if they lose to Romania and Slovakia beat Norway.
Hungary bounced back from their opening loss to Turkey to inflict Belgium's second 4-3 defeat of the competition and severely damage their hopes of a second straight qualification. Zoltán Dróth scored twice early on but Belgium fought back and looked set for a draw until Tamás Nagy dramatically struck two seconds from the end.
Hosts Ukraine then moved three points clear at the top with a 12-2 defeat of Turkey. The Kharkiv faithful were delighted by nine first-half goals and in all seven Ukraine players scored, Serhiy Cheporniuk claiming a hat-trick. Anything other than a 20-goal defeat by Hungary on Sunday would confirm Ukraine's finals place and Turkey, still second, could reach their first major futsal tournament if they beat Belgium.
Former champions Italy secured their second win, beating Bosnia and Herzegovina 4-0 with Edgar Bertoni on target twice. However, they lost both Saad Assis and Luca Ippoliti to injury during the match.
Behind Sunday opponents Italy on goal difference are mini-tournament hosts Slovenia, who overcame a nightmare start to beat Latvia 4-3 and qualify with the Azzurri. Three Slovenia players scored in the first five minutes but two of those were own goals, and Latvia's Maksims Seņs soon made it 3-1. Damir Pertič, scorer of one of the own goals, pulled one back at the right end before the break and in the space of 31 seconds midway through the second half Gašper Vrhovec and Benjamin Melink decided the game.
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