Ukraine and Spain meet on Saturday in Zagreb with their progress from UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 Group B assured − but that does not mean nothing is at stake.
Spain opened with a 4-2 success against Slovenia, who were then defeated 6-3 by Ukraine, who lead the holders on goal difference. The section winners will remain in Zagreb for Monday's last-eight tie rather than switch to Split, as well as gaining the psychological edge should these sides be destined to meet again in the final a week hence.
Gennadiy Lysenchuk has lost all nine of his encounters with Spain as Ukraine coach, including the 2001 final to a golden goal, and while the five-time champions were below par in their first outing, he warned: "The Slovenia game was not the most important of the tournament for Spain's players or their coach. The Spain coach has prepared the team to get better and better from game to game. There are some young players now in the Spain squad but they are the strongest team in this tournament.
I hope we will play Spain twice in this tournament: on Saturday and in the final. Of course we would like to win, and if we beat them twice we would be very happy," added Lysenchuk, clear which of the Group A teams he does not want in the quarter-finals. "We would like to play Romania or the Czech Republic, as Croatia will have big support. We played Croatia in Baku [in FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifying in December], it was a difficult game."
Having had the chance to watch Ukraine's impressive display in eliminating Slovenia, a result that took his own side and Ukraine through, Spain coach José Venancio López told UEFA.com: "Ukraine played magnificently, particularly in the first half. They defended very well and pressed high up and recovered a lot of possession in order to break out quickly in the transition. It was lethal."
Describing Ukraine as "the best" when it comes to transition play, Venancio López says Spain will still look to "take the initiative and put on a show", while confirming that Álvaro could return having been rested as a precaution on Tuesday.
"As the tournament progresses the players are becoming even more focused," he added. "
Wednesday's training session confirmed to me that we are gradually getting better and better. For us, this is the important week of the championship. We expect to play four games in seven days and this is when you have to show your worth."