Spain and Portugal target bronze
Friday, 7 February 2014
Deposed champions Spain and Portugal are both determined to leave Antwerp with a bronze medal as they assess their campaigns ahead of the third-place play-off.
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For the first time in 11 years, a UEFA Futsal EURO final will take place without Spain, who will have just finished playing Portugal for third position when the main event unfolds on Saturday evening.
Spain's bid for a fifth straight title was ended 4-3 in extra time by Russia on Thursday, just after Portugal fell by the same scoreline in 40 minutes against Italy. So the teams that met in the 2010 final will face off for the 23rd time with a bronze medal at stake.
"We cannot leave here without third place – we are a team with pride and we want to show we are still the best," Spain coach José Venancio López told UEFA.com. Portugal's Jorge Braz, whose nation have won only one and lost 16 of their previous 22 Iberian derbies, added: "We still have an important match to play and our objective now is to finish on the podium. I will not go around with a sad or angry face just because we lost to Italy. Nobody will put this team down."
Spain started shakily with a 3-3 draw against Croatia, but topped Group D by beating the Czech Republic 8-1 and then overcame Slovenia 4-0 with a flawless quarter-final performance. Then came Russia and not only has a nine-year unbeaten record against European opposition ended, but for the first time since 2000 Spain will hold neither the world nor the continental title.
"It was a tough defeat," goalkeeper Rafa said. "But we have two stars [for FIFA Futsal World Cup wins] on the chest and six European Championships. We have lost other times and have always recovered. When you do things right, you recover early. We want to win on Saturday and win the next championship. We are made for that."
As for Portugal, they were second in Group B after defeating the Netherlands 5-0 and drawing 4-4 with Russia, and edged past Ukraine 2-1 before succumbing to Italy. "If anyone wants to point fingers or criticise someone, then I'm your man," Braz said.
"Having said that, I will carry on working the same way I've been doing. We are very sorry we couldn't repay with a victory all the support we have had in Antwerp from the Portuguese fans and I want to express my deepest and sincerest thanks to all of them. They are amazing."