Former titlewinners Russia and Italy clinched qualification with a game to spare and holders Spain look in good shape to join them after the second of three matchdays in the UEFA European Futsal Championship qualifying round. The seven group winners and four best runners-up will join hosts Hungary in the finals next January, with qualification concluding on Sunday.
Two-time runners-up Ukraine are on maximum points after following up a 4-2 defeat of Andorra in Thursday's opening fixtures with a 4-1 win against the Netherlands, though they trailed at half-time before two Yevgen Rogachov goals and one each from Fedir Pylypiv and Serhiy Cheporniuk condemned the Dutch to their second loss after leading at the break. Romania beat the Netherlands on Thursday but are two points adrift of Ukraine after being held 3-3 by Andorra following last-minute strikes by Diogenes Lino Baptista and Jonathan Pérez Nuñez. To be sure of qualifying for their second straight finals, mini-tournament hosts Romania must defeat Ukraine on Sunday.
Spain, aiming for a third straight title, secured their second 7-0 victory of their home mini-tournament, with Kazakhstan their victims today. Kike, Fernandao and Jordi Torras struck before the break and Dani Salgado, Álvaro, Fernandao and Oritz added further goals. Slovakia trail Spain on goal difference after coming from behind to beat Moldova 5-1. A point for the holders when the top two meet on Sunday would book their place in Hungary, and would also allow Slovakia through as one of the best runners-up.
Croatia and the Czech Republic are headed for a last-game qualifying showdown for the second European Championship running after both won today. The Czech Republic, at home in Ostrava, were held 4-4 by Bosnia-Herzegovina on Thursday but today defeated Latvia 2-0 with Martin Dlouhý striking eleven minutes from time and Lukáš Rešetár adding a second at the death. Bosnia-Herzegovina led Croatia 2-0 un the first half but Mico Martić's side fought back and Matija Dulvat secured a 3-2 win with seconds remaining. Croatia are two points ahead of the Czech Republic, who must defeat their rivals to ensure qualification on Sunday, just as they did in 2007 when they triumphed 5-1 in Zagreb.
Italy, champions in 2003 and runners-up two years ago, are through following a 3-0 win against Belarus. The Azzurri beat Georgia 10-1 on Thursday and as that side overcame mini-tournament hosts Lithuania, 4-0, Italy cannot be caught having defeated both teams within three points of them. Saad Assis, Assad Fabiano and Battistella got the goals for Italy while Belarus, 6-0 Thursday winners against Lithuania, lead Sunday opponents Georgia for second place.
Belgium led Serbia on goal difference on kick-off and that remains the case ahead of the pair's Sunday decider in Antwerp. The home side saw off Greece 4-1 while Serbia, who qualified in 2007, beat F.Y.R. Macedonia 3-2. Serbia led 2-0 but their advantage was wiped out in the 31st minute, only for Borko Surudžić to strike the winner within four seconds of the equaliser.
Azerbaijan are the surprise leaders, as having drawn 3-3 with Portugal yesterday they defeated Poland 4-3. Portugal are behind on goals scored having won 2-1 against Finland, who were awarded a 5-0 victory versus Poland in Thursday's match after their opponents were ruled to have fielded an ineligible player in the 2-2 draw. Henrik Henriksson gave Finland a half-time lead but Leitão equalised and Joel Queirós's double penalty with five minutes left ensured a maximum haul for the 2007 semi-finalists, who are staging the group. On Sunday preliminary round qualifiers Finland can still top the pool if they defeat Azerbaijan and Portugal do not beat Poland but all of the top three are still in strong contention.
Russia, who beat Portugal for third place in 2007 and won the competition six years earlier, will definitely travel to Hungary thanks to a 2-0 win against Slovenia with 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup top scorer Pula claiming both goals. Montenegro, who had lost to Russia on Thursday, won 6-4 against mini-tournament hosts France, who themselves lost to Slovenia yesterday. Slovenia play Montenegro for second place on Sunday with a goal difference advantage.
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