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Portugal and Ricardinho claim first title

Portugal became just the fourth different winner, their dramatic extra-time final victory over Spain bringing a first international title for star man Ricardinho.

Portugal and Ricardinho claim first title
Portugal and Ricardinho claim first title ©Sportsfile

Portugal had long been considered one of Europe's 'big four' futsal nations along with Spain, Russia and Italy – but until 2018 they had no major title to show for it.

They had reached the UEFA Futsal EURO 2010 final as well as the semi-finals of two FIFA Futsal World Cups, while Benfica had won a UEFA Futsal Cup with Sporting CP twice runners-up. And of course they had perhaps futsal's break-out star in Ricardinho. Once in Ljubljana, though, Portugal saw off Romania, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Russia and, in extra time of the final, Spain to claim the championship.

Final highlights: Portugal end Spain reign

In fact, Portugal were the only side to win both their group games. Italy did not even make it out of Group A, held 1-1 by Serbia and losing 2-1 to hosts Slovenia after a late Igor Osredkar goal. Spain avoided that fate in Group D but did draw 4-4 with finals debutants France, who led 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2. Russia were similarly shaky, held 1-1 by Poland with a goal nine seconds from time and also drawing 1-1 with Kazakhstan, who topped Group B.

No such problems for Portugal in Group C, as a Ricardinho rabona contributed to a 4-1 success over Romania, with Ukraine also beaten 5-3. Ukraine came back from two down to edge Romania 3-2 and keep up their record of always reaching the last eight since 2001.

Epic semi-final: Kazakhstan v Spain

It had been the lowest-scoring group stage on record and the quarter-finals were also tight. Russia ousted Slovenia 2-0, Kazakhstan saw off Serbia 3-1 and Spain overcame Ukraine 1-0, their scorer – like against Azerbaijan – Pola. Portugal, however, had other ideas and versus Azerbaijan, despite falling behind, became the first team to score five goals in a Futsal EURO first half, eventually triumphing 8-1 with four from Ricardinho.

The tournament truly came to life in the semis. Portugal trailed for most the game against Russia (who had contested the previous three finals) but ended up winning 3-2. Meanwhile, the lead switched back and forth between Spain and Kazakhstan, 4-4 at 40 minutes and 5-5 after extra time before the holders prevailed 3-1 on penalties.

Portugal hit eight

Russia took bronze with a 1-0 victory over a Kazakhstan side coached by Cacau for the last time (and who had placed third on debut in 2016). Then in the final – a fourth tournament sell-out to make this the second Futsal EURO with an aggregate attendance above 100,000 – Ricardinho struck on 59 seconds, the fastest-ever in a decider, before Marc Tolrà and Lin turned the match in Spain's favour.

Less than two minutes remained, though, when Bruno Coelho equalised for Portugal, not long after Miguelín had hit the post with a ten-metre Spanish penalty. In extra time Ricardinho was injured but just 55 seconds from the end Portugal were awarded a ten-metre penalty which Coelho converted off the post.

The celebrations were wild and Ricardinho, in his fifth Futsal EURO, lifted the trophy, having also finished seven-goal top scorer (to become the all-time finals leader on 22) and been named Player of the Tournament. He said: "I told my family that if we got through the semi-finals then we'd win this trophy – I just had a really strong conviction that it was our year."

To ice the cake, Portugal's reign as champions would last at least four years as the finals were switched from a biennial event as part as the tournament's expansion from 12 to 16 teams.