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When they trailed for much of their opening UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 Group D game against Azerbaijan, Serbia feared they would go into Sunday's encounter with Portugal requiring victory; after coming back to win 9-8 on Friday, both opponents in Zagreb are already assured of progress.
Portugal won 4-1 in their 2010 semi-final rematch with Azerbaijan, who are now out following the extraordinary fixture against Serbia. Captain Bojan Pavičević, whose goal with less than four minutes left gave Serbia a lead they never relinquished, is now turning his attention to avenging a 5-1 2010 quarter-final loss to Portugal, knowing victory to clinch top spot in the pool would bring a useful advantage.
"The [Azerbaijan] match was the final for us," Pavičević told UEFA.com. "It was our crucial match. We won it and now we can play against Portugal without too much pressure. Yes, they are the favourites, but we showed we can cause a surprise and we will play without any pressure. We have pulled off a few first-class surprises in recent times, for example against Spain and Russia, so we think we are capable of doing it against Portugal, too.
"Possibly, we will change our tactics for the match but in any case we will do our best.
We already have achieved a great success, but it would be brilliant to be first in the group and avoid travelling to Split. We are one of the youngest teams and it's really nice to see how things are going after changes of generations in the national team. We are doing great things."
Russia or Italy await these teams in the last eight, but the focus remains on Sunday's game for Portugal coach Jorge Braz. "We still have a major goal ahead of us and that is to beat Serbia," he said. "We are fully focused on coming away from that game with a win. It is a very important game as we want to finish top of our group and consolidate our quality as a team.
"Serbia have completely different characteristics when compared with Azerbaijan. They often go for individual plays and they are physically very strong, something that we will need to repel with our organisation.
That is the most important thing: to make sure we maintain our organisation like we did against Azerbaijan."
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