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Semi-final runs reward for underdogs

Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic will compete for third place on Saturday but to have even made the last four was impressive for one side making their bow at this level and another team who made a superb recovery.

Azerbaijan beat the Czech Republic 6-1 in Group A in Budapest last week
Azerbaijan beat the Czech Republic 6-1 in Group A in Budapest last week ©Sportsfile

Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic contest the UEFA European Futsal Championship third-place play-off on Saturday aiming to end what have been memorable campaigns with a bronze medal.

Impressive showings
Azerbaijan, beaten in the last four on penalties by Portugal, are playing in a UEFA national-team final tournament for the first time. No one who watched their run, which included group wins against hosts Hungary and the Czech Republic before a spot-kicks elimination of Ukraine, could have failed to be impressed by the brio and personality of Serjão, Thiago, Biro Jade, Andrey Tveryankin and co. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, who would have had flashbacks to their miserable 2007 campaign when they lost their opener 6-1 to Azerbaijan, came back from four down to pip hosts Hungary 6-5 then shocked Italy on penalties in the semis.

Borisov pleased
"The tournament was fantastic," Azerbaijan's Vitaliy Borisov told uefa.com. "It was organised very well and I'll take amazing emotions from it. The arenas are very nice, the supporters turned up and were supporting us well. Taking part for the first time and advancing to the semi-finals is a big success. It is a pity we will only be competing for third place."

Bronze target
Alves is likely to still be out injured and Biro Jade – sharing the lead in the adidas Golden Boot standings with Italy's Saad Assis on five goals – is suspended. However, goalkeeper Tveryankin said: "Before the tournament I said we would be happy with any medal. Now I will say that bronze for Azerbaijan would be a great success."

Czech aim
An 8-1 defeat by Spain ended the Czech Republic's hopes of the title but against Azerbaijan they will have Marek Kopecký back from a ban and captain Martín Dlouhý is determined to reverse last week's scoreline against Alesio's charges. "It will be a very different game from the first one," he said. "It was just the opening of the tournament and some of the lads were really nervous. In the next two games against Hungary and Italy we played really well, they became more confident. This defeat by Spain won't break this confidence."