UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 kicks off in Antwerp next month and ten of the 12 finalists have been in double-header friendly action this week. UEFA.com rounds up the action.
Belgium 3-3/3-3 Netherlands
Hosts Belgium ended a six-game losing but with two draws against their neighbours and fellow finalists, but could have won both gamesin Lommel. On Monday Belgium had a flying start as Abdelhak El Ghaadaoui struck twice and Ahmed Sababti also scored before the break but in the second half Mohamed Darri and Samir Makhoukhi got the Netherlands beack in the game before Zaid El Morabiti scored the equaliser 18 seconds before time. "This feels like a victory," he said.
The following day Belgium captain Karim Chaibai played his 100th international game and they went 3-1 up as Samir Dabhi scored, Makhoukhi levelled and Saad Salhi and El Ghaadaoui found the target only for El Morabiti and Jamal El Ghannouti to level in the last two minutes. Sabati, whose team face Croatia and Hungary next month before opening the finals on 28 January against Romania in Antwerp , said: "It's a good test for EURO. I am really looking forward to that. I was born and raised in Antwerp and hope we can do well there with the support of the home fans."
Croatia 3-2/1-3 Ukraine
The third team in Group A with the hosts, Ukraine, recovered from an opening defeat against 2012 semi-finalists Croatia with a dramatic victory. On Monday in Osijek, Croatia recovered from conceding an early goal with an immediate Jakov Grcić equaliser and Nikola Pavić scored twice before Maxym Paveneko's consolation.
However, the following day in Bell Manastir, Pavlenko and Ukraine goalkeeper Kyrylo Tsypun struck in the last two minutes for victory. "The result was not a priority for us as we are trying to be in the best shape for EURO, but I am satisfied," said Croatia coach Mato Stanković, whose team start against Spain. "All the players showed that we can count on them, we are a young team and if we continue like this we are capable of improvement."
Iran 6-3/2-2 Russia
Missing eight injured players including goalkeeper Gustavo, strikers Vyacheslav Shayakhmetov and Nikita Fakhrutdinov, Russia were tested in Yazd by a side they had beaten 4-2 in the Grand Prix semi-finals in October. Coached by Jesús Candelas, Iran were two up in the opener within eight minutes and surged to victory despite a pair of goals from Pula and another from promoted Under-21 player Ivan Chishkala.
The next day Aleksandr Fukin and Pula each gave Russia the lead but Daniil Kutuzov's red card help Iran pull it back. Pula said: "Let's be objective. We lacked too many players from the starting lineup and we had to reshuffle and establish new combinations in a limited time. It's good these were friendlies that we're playing in order to identify the weak points."
Italy 5-0/4-1 Romania
Italy produced two good peformances against their fellow finalists, hitting five without reply in Prato on Tuesday, Saad Assis, Alex Merlim, Gabriel Lima and Rodolfo Fortino scoring along with an Emil Răducu own goal.
A day later, when Edgar Bertoni celebrated his 100th cap with Italy, the hosts dominated the first half courtesy of a goal by Marco Ercolessi and two from Luca Leggiero. In the second half, Nelu Stancea's team responded through Florin Matei but Italy added a fourth thanks to Vampeta, his first Italy cap since the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup.
"We have reached a good level of form, although we must continue to work as we always have," said Leggiero, "Beyond results, it is important to grow as a team game after game. This time we did well, we hope to do well in the next two games [against Slovakia on 7 and 8 January]: UEFA Futsal EUROseems far away now, but in reality is very close."
Portugal 4-1/2-4 Slovenia
Tuesday's opener in Moimenta da Beira went to form as Arnaldo, Joel Queirós, Leitão and Paulinho struck for a comfortable Portugal win. However, on Wednesday in Tondela, their fellow finalists Slovenia secured their first-ever victory against Portugal, Alen Fetič scoring twice, Rok Mordej and Igor Osredkar also on target with Joel Queirós and Leitão’s efforts unable to prevent a home defeat.
Portugal coach Jorge Braz said: "The second match was pretty much like the first but Slovenia were more aggressive and we didn't cope well with that. We can't make mistakes like we did in this game. Having said that, we can take several positive aspects from these two friendlies. I'm not worried about this 4-2 upset. Of course we have to improve some aspects of our game, namely to concentrate for the entire 40 minutes, but we still have time until the finals."
Serbia 1-6/3-7 Spain
Spain made it six wins and a draw from their seven post-qualifying friendlies so far and took their goal tally in those games to 44. Serbia, who missed out on the finals despite reaching the last eight in 2012, were overrun by a team missing key men like Torras and Sergio Lozano, with Raúl Campos totalling five goals in an outstanding pair of displays. Spain are back in action against Slovenia on 6 and 7 January and in the Netherlands 15 days later as they prepare to go for a fifth straight European title.
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