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Futsal EURO preliminary round to begin

Qualifying for UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 in Croatia begins on 20 January with 24 teams competing in six preliminary round groups for a chance to join the main contenders next month.

Qualifying for the 2012 finals begins on 20 January
Qualifying for the 2012 finals begins on 20 January ©UEFA.com

The entry for UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 is the biggest yet and on 20 January the race to reach the finals in Croatia begins when the first preliminary round mini-tournaments commence.

Of the 42 teams aiming to earn 11 places alongside the hosts next year, 24 will compete in six one-venue groups with the winners to join the 18 sides already in the qualifying round next month, for which the draw has already been made. Four teams are making their debut and one of them, Iceland, will stage Group B from 21 to 24 January, taking on Greece, Latvia and Armenia.

Another of the debutants, Norway, are in a tough-looking Group F with Israel, Andorra and hosts the Republic of Ireland, whose club champions Sporting Fingal FC put on a breakthrough performance in this season's UEFA Futsal Cup. That pool is one of three to run from 20 to 23 January; the other is Group E in Finland, who will be challenged by debutants San Marino, Albania and Cyprus, who should take inspiration from AGBU Ararat Nicosia FC's run to the UEFA Futsal Cup elite round.

Like Group B, the other pools run a day later and the other newcomers, Switzerland, are in Turkey to meet the hosts, Moldova and Montenegro in Group A. Montenegro will hope to repeat their debut performance of two years ago, when they beat Turkey 4-1 to get past this stage. Malta, under experienced Dutch coach Vic Hermans, host Group D and are up against Lithuania, France and Bulgaria while Group C is in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and also features Georgia, England and Estonia.

Preliminary round; winners to qualifying round
Group A: Moldova, Turkey (hosts), Montenegro, Switzerland

Group B: Greece, Latvia, Armenia, Iceland (hosts)

Group C: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (hosts), Georgia, England, Estonia

Group D: Lithuania, France, Bulgaria, Malta (hosts)

Group E:Finland (hosts), Cyprus, Albania, San Marino

Group F: Israel, Andorra, Republic of Ireland (hosts), Norway

Qualifying round draw
Matches 24-27 February 2011; winners and five best runners-up to finals with hosts Croatia in February 2012

Group 1: Spain (holders), Azerbaijan (hosts), Kazakhstan, winner preliminary round Group D

Group 2: Russia, Serbia, Netherlands (hosts), winner preliminary round Group E

Group 3: Portugal, Belarus, Poland (hosts), winner preliminary round Group C

Group 4: Czech Republic, Romania (hosts), Slovakia, winner preliminary round Group F

Group 5: Ukraine (hosts), Hungary, Belgium, winner preliminary round Group A

Group 6: Italy, Slovenia (hosts), Bosnia and Herzegovina, winner preliminary round Group B