Romania are the first team into the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 quarter-finals after late strikes from Florin Ignat and Florin Matei gave them the margin of victory they needed against the Czech Republic.
Group A had begun with Romania losing 2-1 to Croatia and Sito Rivera's charges were behind early on when Michal Belej scored for the 2010 bronze-medallists. But Gabriel Dobre rifled in a 17th-minute equaliser and the two second-half efforts mean the Czechs must beat Croatia by two on Saturday to pip the hosts.
When these sides met in qualifying, Romania won 1-0, and the opening exchanges suggested another tight encounter was in store. For Romania the start was understandable – they knew they could not afford to lose – but that looked a distinct possibility when Belej exchanged passes with Jiří Novotný for a simple finish.
Rivera's team had no choice but to go for it and after Vlad Iancu saved from Robert Lupu and Matei, Dobre levelled in thunderous fashion. Lupu chipped the ball down the Czech right and Dobre, with little space, unleashed a half-volley past Libor Gerčák
Both sides were quickly on to the front foot after the break, with Gerčák and Vlad Iancu having their palms warmed. Romania, as they had been before the interval, appeared that bit slicker on the break; Marian Șotărcă would have had the goal at his mercy had the sliding Novotný not taken the ball of his toes. The Czechs soon responded, though, with Belej twice thwarted in a matter of moments.
When the Czech Republic countered again Dobre received a booking which rules him out of the quarter-final. His disappointment was soothed by Ignat's header, from Cosmin Gherman's cross, and Matei's strong run and shot. Romania must wait to discover their venue and opposition for Monday's last-eight game but that will not concern them right now.
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