UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 kicks off in Antwerp on 28 January and eight of the 12 finalists have been in double-header friendly action this week. UEFA.com rounds up the news.
Croatia 3-2/2-2 Belgium
Final tournament hosts Belgium's winless run stretched to 12 matches after two close games in Croatia. In the first fixture in Novigrad, Valentin Dujacquier twice equalised for Belgium only for Kristijan Grbeša to win it with 12 minutes to go. Then in Opatija, Grbeša put Croatia ahead but Dujacuier levelled and Omar Rahou seemed to clinched victory for Belgium two minutes from time, only for Jakov Grcić to level 30 seconds from the end.
"As we played without our two key players, Tihomir Novak and Dario Marinović, I can be satisfied with the results," said Croatia coach Mato Stanković. "Although I see some areas where we could be better, this was a good warm-up for us. I have a better picture of my team now."
The teams will meet again in Novigrad on 19 January before Belgium end their warm-up programme a day later versus Greece in Antwerp. Before these friendlies Belgium took part in a promotional indoor football tournament against top-flight clubs, reaching the semi-finals.
Slovenia 5-5/0-3 Spain
Slovenia, who beat Portugal in December, continued their impressive recent form by holding Spain in the first of their two-match friendly series in Maribor but a day later the reigning European champions triumphed 3-0 in Litija. Spain, who will aim for a fifth straight title in Antwerp, were 3-0 up in the first game with Raúl Campos scoring twice to put himself in the frame for José Venancio López's squad but Slovenia fought back, Kristjan Čujec claiming a hat-trick including a 39th-minute equaliser. The next day strikes from Sergio Lozano, back to full fitness after injury, and Raúl Campos sandwiched a Gašper Vrhovec own goal as Spain resumed normal winning service in a match where Igor Osredkar earned a 100th Slovenia cap.
"Today we played like the first 18 minutes yesterday," said Venancio López, whose team conclude their friendly programme at home to the Netherlands on 22 January. "I am pleased with the victory, and the approach of my players." Slovenia coach Andrej Dobovičnik added: "This may be a realistic reflection of where we stand. I am confident the team are well prepared for the upcoming European Championship."
Netherlands 6-3/5-1 Hungary
Marcel Loosveld's side showed their form in Sittard ahead of their first finals appearance in nine years against Sito Rivera's Hungary, who only missed out on away goals against Ukraine in the play-offs. In the first game Mohammed Attaibi struck twice and Najib El Allouchi, Mohamed Allouch and Jamal El Ghanoutti added further goals to make it 5-0 at the break. Captain Samir Makhoukhi, playing a record 116th match for the Netherlands to overtake Antoine Merlino's previous mark, notched a sixth before a late Hungary recovery.
Attaibi and El Ghannouti scored in the first three minutes a day later and although Tamás Lódi pulled one back in the second half, goals from Attaibi and Zaid El Morabiti ensured another comfortable home win. Makhoukhi said: "I am very proud to have become the most-capped player. I have had some great moments already, but hopefully one or two more highlights are still to come. Hopefully in Antwerp ... "
Italy 3-0/3-1 Slovakia
Italy were given a good test in San Vito al Tagliamento by fast-improving Slovakia under their new Spanish coach Marcos Angulo. Captain Gabriel Lima, Vampeta and Saad Assis scored in the first instalment and although a Vladimir Papajicik free-kick put Slovakia ahead the next day, Humberto Honorio equalised and Vampeta struck twice.
"We faced a very good team," said Italy defender Marco Ercolessi. "But we played well and proved to be a good squad. I think we just lack a bit of cohesion but it will come with time. I think in Belgium we must at least match our recent results in big tournaments."
Portugal 11-0/10-0 Switzerland
Portugal were in the goals in Caminha in their first meetings with one of the newer nations in futsal. In the first game Ricardinho and Pedro Costa scored twice with Gonçalo, Arnaldo, Marinho, Ricardo Fernandes, Pedro Cary and Joel Queirós also on target.
They went one better 24 hours later, Cary managing a hat-trick, Ricardinho and Queirós striking two and Fernandes, Arnaldo and Bruno Coelho adding to the victory along with an own goal. Arnaldo, who recently ended a spell in England with Baku United FC to return to FK Nikars Riga, picked up his 175th cap in the first game. Portugal have two home friendlies against Turkey in the week before the finals.
Finland 1-6/2-2 Czech Republic
The Czech Republic started with an impressive victory in Hyvinkaa as David Cupák and Lukáš Rešetár starred. "The match went exactly as we wanted," coach Tomáš Neumann said. "We scored a lot of goals from moves that we practised in training."
A day later in Tammisaari, though, Juhana Jyrkiäinen equalised for Finland 16 seconds before the final whistle. Looking ahead to their pre-finals camp in Kadan, Neumann said: "We have work on our defence, dead-ball situations and power plays."
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