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Russia seek swift progress at Turkey's expense

Russia begin their Group C campaign against Turkey on Friday knowing a win will eliminate their opponents and book a last-eight berth as they start their bid to reach a fourth final.

İsmail Çelen shows his disappointment after Turkey's opening defeat
İsmail Çelen shows his disappointment after Turkey's opening defeat ©Sportsfile

Winners of the UEFA European Futsal Championship in 1999, Russia have arrived in Croatia knowing that victory against Turkey in their Group C opener will send them into the last eight with the luxury of a match to spare.

Sergei Skorovich's squad are the penultimate team to get their campaign under way − Serbia begin after them in Zagreb on Friday − and only flew into the country on Wednesday. Having watched much of the action from afar, Russia are stepping up their preparations for a Split date with Turkey, who acquitted themselves well in losing 3-1 to Italy in their finals debut.

"Turkey have a new and young team," Skorovich told UEFA.com. "They are taking their first steps, but that doesn't mean we can afford not to take them seriously. We've seen them in action and we know they are capable of creating a lot of problems for their opponents."

Italy will certainly vouch for that, having fallen behind inside two minutes to Ömer Kaner's charges on Wednesday. Russia, however, enter this tournament as one of the form sides − they finished runners-up at the prestigious Grand Prix in Brazil last autumn and have won seven of their last eight games.

"I have a lot of respect for all the teams," added Skorovich, who in December relinquished control of 2008 UEFA Futsal Cup winners MFK Sinara Ekaterinburg in order to focus solely on national team affairs. "We're on a good run of results at the moment and last year we even managed to beat Brazil [3-1 in a home friendly]. We're in high spirits and want to win medals, but no one can predict who is going to do so in the end."

For Turkey the equation is simple: defeat and they are out, leaving Russia to face Italy on Sunday to decide who tops the section. Kaner said: "We have nothing to lose, it's our first European Championship after all − it's very exciting for us."

The former Fenerbahçe SK striker made a concerted effort in his post-match press conference to stress that he did not order his team to just defend. Italy's concerted response after falling behind, he said, forced his side on to the back foot.

Kaner expects things to be different on Friday. "Maybe we won't have to defend as much, so my players can show their qualities in the second game," he added. "I hope it will be good for us."