Spain have swept through to Saturday's UEFA European Futsal Championship final and all that stands between them and a third successive title is a Portuguese team they beat 6-1 last Sunday.
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Spain have largely swept through the UEFA European Futsal Championship but standing in their way of a third straight title in Saturday's final in Debrecen is a side they beat 6-1 last Sunday, neighbours Portugal.
The holders had already defeated Belarus 9-1 before meeting Portugal, and although they needed penalties to pip Russia after a goalless quarter-final, in the last four they sailed past the Czech Republic 8-1. Portugal began unconvincingly in the group stage as they drew 5-5 with Belarus before losing to Spain. But it has been a different story since as they overcame Serbia 5-1 in Budapest before returning to Debrecen and knocking out Azerbaijan on penalties.
José Venancio López, whose Spain side's bid for a fifth European title has been based solely in Debrecen, knows Portugal will be no pushover. "The final is going to be totally different to the group stage," he told uefa.com. "They are going to close the game down, to avoid having an open match and allowing Spain so many chances. Portugal are a great team. They play innovative futsal. I'm sure we are going to have a very good final."
Venancio López came into the tournament with several players doubtful through injury but they are now hitting a stunning peak. "After the difficulties we had in the build-up to this tournament, when we had many players with minor injuries, we're delighted to have everyone ready for the final," the coach said.
While four Spain players – Javi Rodríguez, Daniel, Kike and Luis Amado – are targeting a fourth European title, Portugal are in their first final. They missed out in Porto in 2007 on penalties against Spain, a game Orlando Duarte's side had led 2-0. Portugal were last European side to beat Spain over 40 minutes, a September 2005 friendly also representing their only success against their neighbours in 16 meetings.
Duarte said: "We're going to play against, in my opinion, the best team in the world. They're a good example to follow, and it's an honour to be in this final. We respect Spain as the best team in the world but this is a final and obviously we want to win. If necessary we will, speaking figuratively, die on the pitch to achieve it." Looking back at the group game, Portugal player Joaõ Matos added: "That result will influence our team only in the sense that we have to look at the mistakes we made, solve them and be better against Spain. No two matches are the same."
* The final will be refereed by Massimo Cumbo of Italy, Gábor Kovács of host nation Hungary and Stephan Kammerer of Germany, with Finland's Tomi Grönman as timekeeper. Cumbo previously refereed the 2005 final as well as the 2007 match between Spain and Portugal.