Spain lead the way for futsal in Europe
Wednesday, 1 February 2012
UEFA began to organise European futsal tournaments in the mid-1990s and the first nation to win the continental title, Spain, have been the dominant force in the sport.
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FIFA introduced futsal as a new discipline in 1988 and Brazil were crowned as the first FIFA Futsal World Cup winners in January 1989. Futsal was rapidly gaining popularity in Europe and the number of Futsal-playing countries increased considerably during the 1990s.
This enthusiasm in Europe was reflected on the pitch and UEFA staged its first European Futsal tournament in Córdoba, Spain, in January 1996. It was won by the hosts in some style and, after three European teams had reached the semi-finals of the World Cup staged later that year, UEFA's Executive Committee decided, in April 1997, to introduce a full-scale UEFA European Futsal Championship.
The UEFA European Futsal Championship was first held in Granada, Spain in 1999 with Russia running out the first winners in a dramatic final against the hosts. The match finished 3-3 before Russia prevailed in a shoot-out, Konstantin Eremenko converting the winning spot-kick. Spain would make up for that disappointment by winning the Championship in 2001 in Moscow, defeating hosts Russia in the last four before seeing off Ukraine in the final.
Ukraine were back in the final in 2003, but again they lost, this time to hosts Italy, Vinicius Bacaro scoring the only goal of the game. Spain, FIFA Futsal World Cup winners in 2000 and 2004, reclaimed the European crown in 2005, Andrea and Cogorro scoring in a 2-1 win as old rivals Russia were defeated in the final. Spain repeated the trick in 2007 in Porto, beating Italy 3-1.
After five final tournaments consisting of eight teams, the competition was expanded to 12 for the 2010 edition in Hungary, moved to January in order to occupy a previously vacant slot in the UEFA calendar. The winners were the same, though, Spain beating Portugal 4-2 in Debrecen. Croatia staged the 2012 event, attracting record crowds including 14,300 for their semi-final loss to Russia, who in turn lost a dramatic decider to, again, Spain 3-1 after extra time.
However, Russia knocked them out in the 2014 semi-finals in Antwerp, Belgium – also after extra time – only to lose the final 3-1 to Italy. Normal service was resumed in 2016 when Spain beat Russia 7-3 in the final in a tournament in Belgrade watched by a total of more than 100,000 fans. Two years later in Ljubjlana the attendance tally was also six figures and the title went to Portugal, 3-2 after extra time against Spain.
After that Futsal EURO was changed to a 16-team event, held every four years with home and away qualifiers. Portugal retained their title at the first expanded finals with a comeback 4-2 defeat of Russia in Amsterdam.