Russia and Slovenia both took their places at UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 with one main round game to space, while an intriguing slew of table-topping duels will determine the fate of the remaining contenders.
The seven group winners will join hosts Belgium in the finals in Antwerp early next year while the seven runners-up and best third-placed team go into September's play-offs for the last four places. UEFA.com rounds up today's action, with the final fixtures on Saturday.
Italy, winners in 2003, cemented their position atop the standings with a crushing 6-0 defeat of Montenegro in Bari, Alessandro Patias weighing in with a stylish treble. Second-placed Hungary, also on maximum points, remain hot on their heels after consigning Finland to a 5-2 loss. The top two meet in a winner-takes-all encounter on Saturday with Italy having the edge on goal difference.
Slaven Novoselac scored at both ends as Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered a 3-2 reverse against 2010 semi-finalists Azerbaijan, who utlised a flying goalkeeper in moving two points clear at the summit. The section winner will be decided when Alesio's team lock horns with Slovakia, who rallied from a goal behind to edge out winless Norway 4-3.
Captain Sergei Sergeev and Aleksandr Fukin were both on target as Russia posted a 2-1 comeback success against Romania. They knew they would be through if Latvia did not been Kazakhstan and goals from Nikolay Pengrin and Mikhail Pershin ensured the group hosts' defeat. Kazakhstan are level on points with Romania, whom they tackle on Saturday with second spot at stake.
Spain, bidding for a fifth straight European title, sent out an ominous warning with a 13-0 thrashing of Sweden. Saturday's opponents Croatia were given a sterner examination of their resolve, prevailing 3-2 against Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with Dario Marinović scoring the winner nine seconds from time, but they must beat Spain on Saturday to top the section.
Buoyed by an opening day 6-1 defeat of Greece, Portugal were in no mood to relent, sweeping aside Poland 5-2, Joel Queirós and Ricardinho both chipping in with doubles. Mini-tournament hosts Serbia beat Greece 5-0 but that was just short of what they needed to overtake Saturday opponents Portugal on goal difference.
The Netherlands flexed their goalscoring muscles to overwhelm Georgia 7-3 in Rotterdam. Mohamed Attaibi struck three times, while Lasha Sigunava matched him with a hat-trick for the visitors. The Czech Republic also racked up a second straight win, coming from behind to beat Belarus 4-3 but they trail the group hosts on goal difference as they attempt again on Saturday to deny the Dutch.
Kristjan Čujec plundered five goals and spurned a penalty as Slovenia dismantled Ukraine 8-3 to seal a spot in the Antwerp finals. That was because although main round debutants England twice drew level with Turkey courtesy of Ian Parkes and Neil Morgan, they hosts ran out 4-3 winners thanks in part to a pair of goals from Yashin Erdal and meet Ukraine for second spot on Saturday.
Reporting team: Tomáš Čunčík, Aleksei Binkovski, Oleg Sokol, William Anselmo, Lucy Turner, Ivan Vjetrović & Türker Tozar
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