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UEFA Futsal EURO play-off preview

The play-offs take place over the next two Tuesdays with regular qualifiers the Czech Republic and Romania among eight sides vying for the last four spots in Serbia.

Sito Rivera leads Hungary against his old team Romania
Sito Rivera leads Hungary against his old team Romania ©Action Images

All four UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 play-offs take place over the next two Tuesdays
The winners join hosts Serbia, holders Italy, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Croatia and Ukraine in the finals
Finals draw 12.00CET, Friday 2 October, Belgrade Town Hall
Final tournament 2–13 February, Belgrade Arena

Romania v Hungary

Having previously coached Romania from 2003–09 before returning last year, Zoltán Jakab faces Hungary without Gabriel Dobre, who lacks match fitness due to a domestic suspension. Veteran Marian Șotârcă comes into the squad, one of several players to have represented Romania in the final tournaments of 2007, 2012 and 2014. Romania enter the play-offs as the best third-placed team having finished level on points with Kazakhstan and Portugal, topping Group 7 until Tiago Brito scored 72 seconds before the end of their last match.

Main round: Kazakhstan 6-4, Georgia 4-1, Portugal 1-4 (Group 7 third place)

Coach Zoltán Jakab
"These are two huge matches because our only aim is to qualify. Theoretically, we are the better-ranked team and could be considered favourites but we have to show it on the pitch. Anyway we will have two very, very tough matches. Hungary have had several preparation periods – we haven't – and they also participated recently at a tournament against Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. More than that, their coach was in charge of Romania for three years, so he knows us very well, especially because our team hasn't changed much. But I also know a lot about them and their championship. We know each other and it will be very interesting and tough."

Hungary coach Sito Rivera indeed left Romania for his current role midway through UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 qualification. He now hopes to lead his side to their third final tournament after 2005 and 2010, when they were hosts. Earlier this month in the tournament in Tychy, Poland, they beat Slovakia 3-1 yet lost 6-2 to the hosts and 6-0 to Czech Republic.

Main round: FYR Macedonia 3-3, Spain 0-5, Switzerland 8-2 (Group 2 runners-up)

Coach Sito Rivera
"Romania are a good team, as shown by the fact they have reached the last two European Championships. I know all our opponents. They also have several experienced players, but I am confident we have a chance if we focus on our own game. The fact we play at home in the second leg is an advantage for us."

Bosnia and Herzegovina are aiming for a finals debut
Bosnia and Herzegovina are aiming for a finals debut©Fedja Krvavac

Bosnia and Herzegovina v Kazakhstan
Bosnia and Herzegovina
On their play-off debut two years ago, Bosnia and Herzegovina were pipped on away goals by the Netherlands in a dramatic tie, but having avenged that defeat in the main round, Boro Matan's squad now face Kazakhstan with a final tournament debutant guaranteed. The team warmed up with two friendlies away to finals hosts Serbia, losing 2-1 and 4-2 in Belgrade, as well as having several training camps in Zenica.

Main round: Netherlands 2-1, Latvia 7-3, Russia 1-2 (Group 1 runners-up)

Coach Boro Matan
"Last time, we were only one minute away from the final tournament. This time we want to succeed, but we have a really difficult opponent. Kazakhstan have the better club futsal, which means their national team does not fall behind. It will be tough, but we're hoping."

Kazakhstan are at this stage for the first time but at club level much of their squad are used to success with Kairat Almaty. Like that club side, Cacau coaches the national squad which includes familiar faces in goalkeeper Higuita, Dinmukhambet Suleimenov, Leo and Mikhail Pershin. Beating Portugal in the main round is proof of their prowess, and they are currently preparing in Croatia for the 15 September away leg. Cacau's team came from two down to oust Dinamo Zagreb 4-2 in a friendly, though newcomer Douglas did not feature because of a knock. However, he is expected back for the big game in Zenica along with Leo and Ayat pair Nikolay Pengrin and Konstantin Chebotarev, also struggling with minor injuries.

Main round: Romania 4-6, Portugal 3-1, Georgia 4-0 (Group 7 runners-up)

Coach Cacau
"I have watched two Bosnia matches and I can say they play a very aggressive game. However, we also have something to offer. We really want to qualify for this EURO and we refuse to accept anything less."

Tomáš Neumann is urging caution against Belarus
Tomáš Neumann is urging caution against Belarus©Sportsfile

Czech Republic v Belarus
Czech Republic

Czech Republic won the four-nation tournament in Tychy, beating Poland 5-2 and Hungary 6-0 either side of a 3-0 loss to Slovakia, yet the main aim was for long-serving coach Tomáš Neumann to test his play-off tactics. He has retained the same squad including stalwart brothers Roman and Michael Mareš. Importantly, Neumann, who has led the Czech Republic to the last four UEFA Futsal EURO tournaments, does not have any injury worries and aims to keep up a perfect record of five straight wins against Belarus.

Main round: France 5-3, Norway 4-0, Slovenia 1-3 (Group 5 runners-up)

Coach Tomáš Neumann
"We know futsal is very popular in Belarus and we expect them to be very energetic, to defend well and to have very dangerous set pieces. We have to be really careful. I would prefer to have started away, but as we start at home, we need to get a decent result as a basis for the second leg."

Belarus, whose sole qualification came in 2010, warmed up with two friendlies against Azerbaijan in Baku, losing 5-2 – after leading 2-0 – and then going down 2-1. The backbone of an entirely domestically based squad consists of the experienced Aleksandr Chernik, Vadim Lushkovski and Aleksei Popov.

Main round: Poland 0-0, Italy 1-2, Finland 2-0 (Group 3 runners-up)

Coach Vladimir Ignatik
"What are the strengths of my team? I would say our strength is our unity. One for all and all for one."

Kairat's successes are inspiring Kazakhstan
Kairat's successes are inspiring Kazakhstan©Sportsfile

Azerbaijan v Slovakia
Azerbaijan have qualified for the last three final tournaments yet have struggled to match their run to the 2010 semis on debut. Alesio, the coach who masterminded their rise, left in 2014 and has been replaced by the even more renowned Tino Pérez. Aside from those friendly victories against Belarus, they have been training together twice a day in Baku and are missing just one injured goalkeeper .

Main round: Belgium 3-1, Denmark 11-2, Ukraine 2-4 (Group 4 runners-up)

Coach Tino Pérez
"Our friendly games were successful exercises. The lads performed well. I think we are ready both physically and tactically. In my opinion our level of readiness is about 80%. In addition, we have begun to study our opponents. We are watching videos of their matches and we hope everything goes well and our goal will be reached."

Although Slovakia have never reached a final tournament, coach Marián Berky has the advantage of nine of his 14-man squad playing together at Slov-Matic Bratislava. In the Tichy tournament they finished second, a 1-1 draw with Poland preceding a 3-0 defeat of the Czech Republic and 3-1 loss to Hungary.

Main round: Armenia 7-1, Turkey 5-1, Croatia 2-3 (Group 6 runners-up)

Coach Marián Berky
"Azerbaijan are experienced opponents. But I believe we will be able to play with courage and heart – and after the first leg in Baku, our chances to advance will still be there. I think we have an experienced team who can fight for a historic breakthrough and qualification for these finals."

Reporters: Paul-Daniel Zaharia, Fuad Krvavac, Ondřej Zlámal, Denis Orlov, Oqtay Atayev & Rastislav Hribik