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Slovenia buzzing ahead of historic Spain match

Andrej Dobovičnik told UEFA.com that facing holders Spain in the quarter-finals, Slovenia's first-ever knockout game, will be one of the "proudest matches in our history".

Slovenia buzzing ahead of historic Spain match
Slovenia buzzing ahead of historic Spain match ©UEFA.com

Andrej Dobovičnik and his Slovenia players are preparing for "one of the most important and proudest matches in our history" – the nation's first game in the knockout stage of a UEFA Futsal EURO, Tuesday's quarter-final against holders and six-time winners Spain.

The Balkan team arrived in Belgium at the beginning of last week having lost all seven of their previous fixtures at continental finals, but proceeded to upset Italy 3-2 in their Group C opener before squandering a 5-2 lead when succumbing 7-6 to Azerbaijan two days later.

The Azzurri's subsequent 7-0 defeat of Azerbaijan meant Slovenia went through as runners-up, setting up a historic tie against a country they have never beaten in 13 attempts. No matter that their task is to eliminate a side who have not lost over 40 minutes since 2005, Dobovičnik is delighted to still be part of the tournament.

"It's a big success for Slovenia to be in the quarter-finals," he told UEFA.com at the squad's hotel in central Antwerp. "We won our first points in a European Championship and the most important thing is that you can see the improvement in our play on the pitch – that's crucial.

"Slovenia have never achieved such good results and for me and the team it's going to be one of the most important and proudest matches in our history."

You do not have to delve too deep into the archives to find the last time the nations met. They played twice in Slovenia at the start of last month, Dobovičnik's men recovering from 3-0 down to draw 5-5 and then losing 3-0 to La Roja 24 hours later.

"That [5-5 draw] was a very intense match, from first minute to last," explained Dobovičnik, who can call on the finals' joint four-goal top scorer Gašper Vrhovec. "We are aware Spain are still the favourites. They are a much better team than Slovenia, which was shown the next day. It's difficult to compare these two matches, but I'm sure of one thing: the players will give 100%."

Spain's progress through Group D came at a cost. Miguelín and Lin, who both featured in the 3-3 draw with Croatia but missed the 8-1 destruction of the Czech Republic on Sunday, are nursing adductor and back problems respectively but have been passed fit. Captain Torras is definitely out with a knee injury.

"They are three major players for us," said Sergio Lozano, on target twice against the Czechs. "It also means three fewer rotations, but hopefully on Tuesday they can play and help us. It will be a tough match."

Coach José Venancio López added: "We knew Slovenia were going to cause a surprise in the tournament. On Tuesday we will have a close game; it will be tough. Slovenia play futsal very well, a very practical game, and have great quality."