Runners-up at the FIFA Futsal World Cup four years ago, Italy recovered from a shaky start to beat Croatia 6-3 in the first leg of their play-off, while Portugal were in free-scoring form in Slovenia and Romania drew in the Czech Republic.
Croatia went ahead after four minutes in Pescara through Jakov Grcić and their lead was swiftly doubled when Azzurri goalkeeper Alexander Feller saw his clearance rebound in off Duje Bajrušović. The hosts restored parity before the interval, though, thanks to Saad Assis's powerful finish and Sandro Zanetti's close-range strike, and they were 4-2 up early in the second half as Carlos Morgado and Adriano Foglia turned in corners. Foglia was then set up by Edgar Bertoni to extend the lead, and although Dragan Stanković reduced arrears with a double penalty, Grana converted one of his own to ensure a three-goal cushion for the return on 16 April.
Portugal seem to have one foot in the autumn finals in Brazil thanks to a convincing display in Ljubljana. Ricardinho and Pedro Costa had Portugal two up by the five-minute mark, and that start was made to tell as Ivan, Jardel and Gonçalo made it 5-0 by half-time. Slaviša Goranović pulled one back but Israel ensured that Portugal will have a substantial advantage to defend in Lisbon on Tuesday week.
In the only one of the six play-offs to match two teams from the UEFA European Futsal Championship finals last November, the Czech Republic avoided a repeat of their 8-4 defeat by Romania but will have to travel to Targu Mures on 15 April with the score at 1-1. The home side were missing Roman Mareš due to a thigh injury, but his brother Michal helped put the Czechs into a 24th-minute lead when he sent in a pass for David Filinger which Marian Sotirca deflected into his own net.
Romania had hit the post twice by then and Sotrica made up for the opening goal when he set up Robert Lupu to equalise. Lukáš Rešetár then struck the woodwork, leaving the Czech Republic with a tough task to match their 2004 qualification. In the previous first legs, holders Spain beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 9-1, Russia won 5-1 in Belarus and Ukraine defeated Hungary 3-1.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.