Spain lead pioneering mission
Spain hosted the experimental UEFA European Futsal Tournament in January 1996 and emerged as winners.
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FIFA took over the running of futsal in 1989 with the launch of the first FIFA Futsal World Cup and UEFA organised their first European Futsal Tournament in the winter of 1995/96.
The first qualifier was an entertaining 9-5 win for Ukraine against Yugoslavia on 23 October 1995, Sergiy Usakovskyy scoring the first goal. Of the 17 teams across three qualifying groups, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy and Ukraine was through to join hosts Spain in the finals in Cordoba from 8-14 January 1996.
In Group A Spain opened with a 2-1 win against Belgium, who bounced back to beat the Netherlands 2-0 and book a semi-final berth. The hosts joined them as group winners following a 2-2 draw with the Netherlands while in Group B Russia beat Ukraine 3-2 and Italy 5-1 with the Azzurri taking second place with a 6-3 win against Ukraine. Both group winners made it through the semis, Spain beating Italy 4-1 and Russia defeating Belgium 6-2.
And in the final Spain took the title with a 5-3 win against Russia thanks to four Vicente Martínez goals, with Belgium beating Italy 3-2 for third place and Ukraine pipping the Netherlands 4-3 to come fifth. All six teams were to finish in the top eight of the World Cup later that year in Barcelona and in 1997 the UEFA Executive Committee decided to launch the UEFA European Futsal Championship.