Group D opens with Spain taking on debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina, while fellow newcomers Georgia face Azerbaijan.
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UEFA Futsal EURO 2022 Group D opens on Saturday at Groningen's MartiniPlaza, with the most successful team in the competition's history, Spain, taking on debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina. Another newcomer to the finals, Georgia, meanwhile, face Azerbaijan.Where to watch Futsal EURO
Georgia vs Azerbaijan (14:30 CET, Groningen)
France were the sole debutants at the 2018 finals and raised eyebrows by drawing 4-4 against Spain and also giving Azerbaijan a scare. But in qualifying this time around, Georgia drew 4-4 in France then beat them 3-2 to earn a first finals appearance of their own. Now it's Georgia's turn to have a crack at Azerbaijan, as well as Spain, and although the lowest-ranked team to reach the finals (22nd prior to qualifying), they pose a clear danger with the attacking ability of Eilsandro, Roninho, Thales and Archil Sebiskveradze.
In fact, Georgia's rise seems slightly to echo that of Azerbaijan, who came to sudden prominence in 2010 when they earned a finals debut and went all the way to the semis with some thrilling performances. Rizvan Farzaliyev, just as then, remains an important player and the coach that oversaw their rise, Alesio, is in charge of both the national team and Araz Naxçivan, who provide the squad's core. However, Maneca has been ruled out after an injury in trainihg.
Avtandil Asatiani, Georgia coach: "We are proud of Georgia's first participation in this European Championship. Everyone is happy, because we are going to hear the Georgian anthem and see the Georgian flag in this tournament in the Netherlands. We know it will be a very difficult group stage, but we will give everything to be in the next round. I'm only thinking about my national team, but I think Azerbaijan is a strong team, even if they have some absentees."
Alesio, Azerbaijan coach: "We studied Georgia a lot once we knew we were going to play them. I expect and know that it will be a very difficult match, because they are a team with new players, and a team that have been playing together for a long time. They are good collectively. It's going to be a very tough match, because we both know that this result is very important, because then we have to play against Spain."
Key stat: Sebiskveradze's nine qualifying goals is the most of anyone in the finals, while Roninho topped the assists chart with 11.
Spain vs Bosnia and Herzegovina (17:30 CET, Groningen)
Only three times, in 2001, 2005 and 2016, have Spain begun a Futsal EURO not as defending champions; on each occasion they have ended up reclaiming the trophy. Portugal dethroned them in extra time of the final four years ago in Ljubljana, and beat them in the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup last eight, but Spain sent out a signal of intent in the new home-and-away qualifying group stage: no one in that round scored as many as their 46 or conceded as few as their three.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, by contrast, are in their first final tournament and have suffered heavy defeats in each of their past four competitive meetings with Spain, conceding an aggregate 27 goals. However, the last of those games was in 2015 and the new status of the Dragons, many of whose players are still part-time, is demonstrated by how they came through a tough-looking qualifying group including Serbia and Romania with two games to spare. Goalkeepers Darko Milanović and Stanislav Galić (the latter not in the squad) are suspended and Senad Poračanin could not travel, meaning Andrijano Dujmović comes in.
Fede Vidal, Spain coach: "Adolfo, who is still not with us, won't play tomorrow, and Catela is a doubt, he is not going to train [on Friday] and we don't know if he will be with us. The rest are fine. These first three points are fundamental. Bosnia and Herzegovina are a great team, they've had an almost perfect qualifying group stage. We know we're going to have a very difficult match, we have to give it the importance it deserves."
Ivo Krezo, Bosnia and Herzegovina coach: “We have nothing to lose against a team like Spain, who have won this tournament seven times and have won the World Cup twice. Spain are one of the favourites. We have to be brave, and we will see what happens. It's a problem for us that both our [regu;ar] goalkeepers are suspended for tomorrow's game. But we have confidence in the goalkeeper who will play, he will do well."
Key stat: Ortiz, equalling Luis Amado in appearing at a seventh Futsal EURO and bidding for a record-equalling fifth individual title, is set to become the first player to make 50 competition appearances including qualifying.