UEFA European Futsal Championship holders Spain and fellow former titleholders Italy and Russia were among the winners as the 2010 qualifying round began. The seven group winners and four best runners-up will join hosts Hungary in the expanded finals next January. uefa.com rounds up the Matchday 1 action, with the mini-tournaments continuing on Friday and Sunday.
In the only pool involving two of the eight nations to play in the 2007 finals in Porto, both were victorious. Mini-tournament hosts Romania trailed the Netherlands 2-1 at half-time but, after levelling, Mohammed Attaibi restored the Dutch lead with six minutes to go, only for the home side to level again and then secure a 4-3 win. Two-time runners-up Ukraine, who the Netherlands play on Friday, defeated Andorra 4-2.
Spain are aiming to secure a third straight European title and on home ground in Badajoz and eased to a 7-0 victory against Moldova. Lin opened the scoring and both Álvaro and Kike struck either side of the break before Borja and Juanara rounded things off. Kazakhstan, one of six teams to advance from the preliminary round, play Spain next and today lost 6-4 to Slovakia after Peter Kozar and Ladislav Mikita struck in the last three minutes.
Staging this group in the venue for the 2005 finals, Ostrava, the Czech Republic are aiming to reach a seventh straight major tournament but were grateful for a 4-4 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina. Trailing 4-2 at the break, the Czech Republic were still behind by that scoreline with three minutes left but Lukáš Rešetár and Marek Kopecký salvaged a point. Croatia are top after beating preliminary round qualifiers Latvia 2-0 and now play Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Italy, who lost long-serving coach Alessandro Nuccorini to Serie B football side Mantova Calcio last month, showed no ill-effects under replacement Roberto Menichelli as they overcame preliminary round qualifiers Georgia 10-1. The 2003 champions and 2007 runners-up were only a Battistella goal up at the break but he was to complete a hat-trick as the Azzurri streaked away in the second half. Belarus beat mini-tournament hosts Lithuania 6-0 meaning their Friday meeting with Italy could decide first place.
Serbia were another of the 2007 finalists to start in winning fashion by overcoming preliminary round qualifiers Greece 5-2. Belgium, hosting the group in Antwerp, are hoping for a first finals appearance since 2003 and beat F.Y.R. Macedonia 6-0, with five of the goals before the break, to suggest their Sunday encounter with Serbia will be decisive.
Azerbaijan, who have never reached a major finals but did not lose in 2007 qualifying, gave proof of their enhanced status with a 3-3 draw against Portugal, semi-finalists as hosts in 2007 and staging this mini-tournament in Viana do Castelo. Portugal, victorious in all five previous meetings with Azerbaijan, led 2-1 at half-time but trailed late in the second period before Joel Queirós levelled matters. Finland drew 2-2 with Poland thanks to a Teemu Terho equaliser 14 seconds from time but due to Poland fielding an ineligible player, a UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body decision on Friday awarded the game 5-0 to Finland, who next play Portugal.
Russia, victors in 1999 and third two years ago, are under the supervision of MFK Viz-Sinara Ekaterinburg coach Sergei Skorovich and eased to a 7-1 win against Montenegro, who progressed from the preliminary round on their tournament debut. Aleksandr Fukin, Vladislav Shayakhmetov and Cirilo all scored twice, while mini-tournament hosts France led Russia's next opponents Slovenia by two goals at the break but Les Bleus slipped to a 3-2 defeat.
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