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Latvia first through, Finland open gap

Latvia secured progress from the preliminary round with a game to spare on Saturday while four other groups were taken to the final day, with Finland's win leaving them especially well-placed.

Mustapha Otmani (centre) celebrates scoring in France's 3-1 defeat of Lithuania
Mustapha Otmani (centre) celebrates scoring in France's 3-1 defeat of Lithuania ©Domenic Aquilina

Latvia progressed from the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 preliminary round with a game to spare but the other four groups in action on Saturday are set for last-match deciders.

Igors Dacko was the inspiration in Latvia's 4-0 win against Greece, their second Group B victory. That meant the only way they would not go through would be if Monday's opponents Armenia defeated Iceland, but instead the hosts secured their maiden futsal win, Thorsteinn Már Ragnarsson scoring twice in a 6-1 triumph. Latvia will face Italy, hosts Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in qualifying round Group F from 24 to 27 February.

Two sections conclude on Sunday. In one of them Finland are three points clear following a 7-0 Group E success against San Marino, Panu Autio putting the hosts one up at the break and also among the second-half scorers as their stubborn opponents were broken down. Finland coach Jouni Pihlaja told UEFA.com: "Our game was a bit difficult early on, but when the game opened up, it opened up totally."

Albania, beaten 9-0 by hosts Finland on Thursday, are out but still managed a thrilling 7-6 defeat of Cyprus. Costas Poliviou's hat-trick for Cyprus almost turned a game they had trailed 6-1. Cyprus are the only side that can pip Finland on Sunday but must beat the hosts and realistically hope Albania do not defeat San Marino. Group F also concludes in Dublin tomorrow with Norway leading Andorra on goal difference ahead of their decider.

The other three pools conclude on Monday. In Group D, France and Bulgaria will face off after second wins. France recovered from one down to beat Lithuania 3-1, Mustapha Otmani scoring twice in the last three minutes. "We play a waiting game," Otmani said. "We tired our opponents with our passing. We wait until we strike. I am very pleased with my two goals on a personal note."

Bulgaria moved ahead of France on goal difference with a 7-0 victory against hosts Malta, Boycho Marev − who will be suspended against Les Blues after a booking − striking three times. Marev said: "Today we showed that we are a very strong team." Malta captain John Cutajar added: "You cannot make mistakes at this level. We must forget this match as usual and move on. We again played very difficult opponents, but this is no excuse."

Group C will also have a decider between Georgia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Leaders Georgia defeated England 4-0 and hosts FYROM then overcame Estonia 6-2 with a Darko Rangotov hat-trick but still trail on goal difference. FYROM coach Vasil Skenderovski said: "I am satisfied with the win, although this was a kind of a Pyrrhic victory because the injury to Zarko Naskovski, one of our key players."

By contrast all four teams in Group A have three points. Montenegro, defeated 5-1 by hosts Turkey on Friday, beat Moldova 3-2, having two leads cancelled out before Zoran Barović's second goal proved decisive. Montenegro coach Sveto Lesar said: "Moldova are one of the best teams in futsal, so we have to use innovative tactics. Therefore it was a really good match." Switzerland, defeated 4-3 by Moldova on their tournament debut, secured a maiden triumph, 3-2 against Turkey. They twice equalised against largely dominant opponents prior to Danijel Agatic's 39th-minute winner.

Switzerland coach David Meyer said: "My feelings are strange today. I feel great emotion. These were the first points in Swiss futsal history. We have beaten Turkey in Turkey. This is great. Our objective wasn't reaching the next round before coming here, just to gain experience and take some points. But now it's possible." Top on goal difference, Turkey face Moldova on Monday after Switzerland play Montenegro.

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