UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 finalists Turkey moved through from the FIFA Futsal World Cup preliminary round along with fellow group winners Moldova, Bulgaria, Latvia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and best runners-up France and Norway.
Twenty teams were competing in five groups for a chance to join the 21 highest-ranked European countries in the main round from 14 to 18 December, for which the draw has already been made. UEFA.com rounds up the action from the mini-tournaments played between Thursday and today, with some dramatic finishes including a rare penalty shoot-out.
On the first two matchdays both Moldova and hosts Georgia drew 2-2 with Armenia and beat Malta 10-0. But first up today Armenia put themselves in contention by defeating Malta 4-0 with Armen Gyulambaryan and Grigor Kapukranyan each scoring twice. Moldova took a 27th-minute lead against Georgia through Valeriu Baeşu but Archil Sebiskveradze equalised within ten seconds and Kakhaber Maisaia then gave the home side the lead. Five minutes remained when Sergiu Tacot levelled and the 2-2 draw left both dead level, ahead of Armenia on goal difference. Moldova went through by coefficient as per the competition regulations, after a protest from the Football Association of Moldova (FMF).
After two games Greece seemed on course, having defeated Norway 3-1 and Andorra 6-1. Bulgaria had overcome Andorra 8-4 but a 3-2 loss to Norway had left both three points adrift. Norway knew a win against Andorra would put them in contention but having scored early they trailed 2-1 at half-time and late on lost another lead before Thomas Sæther sealed a 4-3 win with his second goal.
In the late game hosts Bulgaria stormed to a 5-1 defeat of Greece to top the section in a three-way head-to-head to go through a round of futsal international competition for the first time and they now travel to Italy to face the 2004 World Cup runners-up. Norway pipped Greece to second place and have progressed in their debut World Cup after Latvia's last-gasp draw with Cyprus ensured Esten Saether's side ended as second best runners-up, meaning a main round group involving two-time global champions Spain.
There was also last-day drama in this section. Latvia had beaten England 7-1 and first-time entrants San Marino 9-1 to comfortably lead after two games on home territory. Cyprus defeated San Marino 3-1 but then lost 3-2 to England courtesy of a late Luke Ballinger goal. England began matchday three with a 5-3 defeat of San Marino but the real drama was to follow with Cyprus leading Latvia 2-0 after 25 minutes.
A Cyprus win would have taken them through behind Latvia as second best runners-up at Norway's expense but the mini-tournament hosts came back and Artjoms Koļesņikovs equalised with two minutes left. England's goal difference in second was inferior to fellow runners-up France and Norway, while Latvia go to Hungary for main round Group 7 including 2008 semi-finalists Russia.
Turkey, who will make their major futsal tournament debut when they face Italy and Russia in the EURO group stage early next year will visit fellow finalists the Czech Republic in the main round after finishing ahead of Finland, Albania and home side Estonia. The hosts actually gave Turkey a scare on Thursday with a second-half comeback to lose only 4-3 before Ömer Kaner's side overcame top seeds Finland 6-0. Albania, who drew 0-0 with Finland, beat Estonia 5-3 but lost 5-2 to Turkey, Yasin Erdal scoring three. Finland defeated Estonia 4-0 but missed out on second place on goal difference behind Albania, who nonetheless are out.
FYROM, hosting the group, beat France 3-1 in a decider but both are through. France had led after matchday 1, beating competition newcomers Switzerland 7-0 while FYROM overcame Montenegro 2-1. However, France needed a last-gasp Alexandre Teixeira goal to defeat Montenegro 4-3 and FYROM then won 10-2 against Switzerland, the score they needed to lead Les Bleus going into the last day. By that time they both knew that barring a heavy defeat progress was assured but FYROM took first place to go into the only main round section with three EURO finalists, Group 5 staged by Azerbaijan and also involving Ukraine and Croatia. France, the best runners-up, will travel to Portugal for Group 4.
Main round draw
Group 1: Spain, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Norway
Group 2: Italy*, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria
Group 3: Serbia, Slovenia*, Israel, Moldova
Group 4: Portugal*, Slovakia, Lithuania, France
Group 5: Ukraine, Azerbaijan*, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Group 6: Czech Republic*, Belarus, Netherlands, Turkey
Group 7: Russia, Hungary*, Kazakhstan, Latvia
The top two in each main round section progress to the play-offs on 25 to 28 March and 8 to 11 April next year, determining Europe's seven representatives in Thailand from 2 to 18 November. Before that, the 12-team UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 finals in Croatia run from 31 January to 11 February.
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