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Romania were the first team to reach the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 quarter-finals but two days later they learned the news they feared: that holders Spain would be their opponents at Arena Zagreb on Monday.
Spain have won all ten meetings with Romania, most recently 7-1 in the 2010 Grand Prix in Brazil. Four of those losses have come since Spaniard Sito Rivera took the Romania reins in 2009, but his tenure has proved a success so far, qualifying his adopted country for their second EURO and getting past the group stage with a 3-1 defeat of the Czech Republic having lost 2-1 to Croatia.
"Obviously it's the toughest possible match, which we will have to play with our heart and with our souls," Rivera said. "We have never won any of the ten matches, but we have our chances. We can win, especially if we have a huge day and Spain an average and modest one."
His opposite number, José Venancio López, is full of admiration for what Rivera has achieved with a team who only started playing in 2003, by which stage Spain had already won world and European titles. "It was a great success hiring him, because Romania have improved considerably in recent years," Venancio López said. "Their tactics have evolved considerably, and they have the resources to make the game difficult."
Aiming for a fourth straight crown, Spain beat Slovenia 4-2 and Ukraine 4-1 in the group stage to remain in Zagreb, but the experienced Álvaro looks set to miss out with a recurrence of his calf injury, and one Romanian ploy especially worries Venancio López.
"A weapon that they handle very well is the flying goalkeeper," he said. "
Our players are very aware of what is at stake. We have to win because these are the games of life and death, moments of truth."
Rivera, missing the suspended Gabriel Dobre, knows the risk of removing the regular keeper may have to be taken. "
Against Spain we could lose, we could even be thrashed, but I want my players to play how they know, not to be afraid. I think that I have achieved that," he said,
"Playing with a flying goalkeeper is a situation that depends on how the game goes, but you have to handle it well both in defence and attack. We are inferior to Spain, so I guess there will be times that we have to use that strategy."
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