Kazakhstan, Latvia, Montenegro and Georgia took the last available berths in next month's UEFA European Futsal Championship qualifying round after the conclusion of the preliminary round on Sunday.
Finland and Greece had sealed first place and progress in their groups with a game to spare on Friday; today Kazakhstan and Latvia ensured they topped the remaining pools. Meanwhile Montenegro and Georgia, whose hopes of winning their sections had been dashed respectively by Finland and Greece, ensured they remained in the competition by going through as the two best runners-up.
In Group A in Dublin, Kazakhstan held a three-point lead at kick-off but could still have been pipped by hosts the Republic of Ireland, whose task was made more mathematically simpler by Cyprus losing 4-2 to England, who secured their first-ever points in a futsal qualifier. However, Kazakhstan eased to a 5-0 win against Ireland, who ended their debut mini-tournament fourth behind runners-up England and Cyprus. Kazakhstan now have the formidable task of taking on holders Spain, as well as Slovakia and Moldova, from 19-22 March for a place in the Hungary finals.
Latvia needed a draw against Bulgaria to deny the Group B hosts first place in Varna, and won 3-2 thanks to Sergejs Nagibins's second-half winner to progress through a round for the first time. They now go to Ostrava to play the Czech Republic, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Armenia defeated championship debutants Estonia 8-5 for third place on goal difference behind Bulgaria.
England and Bulgaria's points tallies proved insufficient for them to join their group winners in progress due to results in the other pools. Competition newcomers Montenegro ended with the best record of the four runners-up thanks to their 4-1 Group D victory against Turkey in Ramat Gan, and now play former champions Russia, Slovenia and France. Finland finished above Montenegro on head-to-head record despite losing 3-2 to hosts Israel. Portugal, Poland and Azerbaijan are Finland's qualifying round opponents.
Georgia scored three second-half goals to defeat Albania 3-0 to the other of the best runners-up berths, and go on to play 2007 beaten finalists Italy, Belarus and Lithuania in Kaunas. Greece matched Kazakhstan and Latvia in winning their pool with nine points, overcoming home side Malta 5-1. They play Serbia, Belgium and F.Y.R. Macedonia next month, while the one qualifying round group constituted prior to the preliminary phase involves Ukraine, the Netherlands, Romania and Andorra. The seven qualifying group winners and four best runners-up progress to join hosts Hungary in the finals in Budapest and Debrecen from 18-30 January 2010.
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