UEFA Futsal EURO daily preview: Croatia vs Russia, Poland vs Slovakia
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Croatia and Russia go head to head after opening Group C wins while Poland face Slovakia following their losses.
Article top media content
Croatia and Russia both impressed in their opening UEFA Futsal EURO 2022 Group C games on Friday; on Tuesday they go head to head with the quarter-finals in their sights, before Poland and Slovakia look to recover from losing those first matches.
We preview the games at Amsterdam's Ziggo Dome.
Croatia vs Russia (17:30 CET, Amsterdam)
Russia were many people's pre-tournament picks to win the title, 23 years after their sole triumph to date, while Croatia were billed as dangerous dark horses. Few will have changed their minds after the openers. Russia cruised to a 7-1 win against Slovakia, Artem Antoshkin getting a hat-trick. Croatia defeated Poland 3-1, showing style in the first half, particularly Matej Horvat's rabona, and grit to hold on in the second.
These are familiar opponents, meeting twice in 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifying, with Croatia equalising late to draw 2-2 in the main round and Russia winning an elite round thriller 4-3 in Osijek to qualify. The encounter brings back memories too of their 2012 semi-final in Zagreb, where Russia beat the hosts 4-2 in front of a competition-record 14,300 crowd. Russia have lost Eder Lima to an injury, with Andrei Afanasyev called up.
Marinko Mavrović, Croatia coach: "Russia are a fantastic team with a lot of experience and great players like Robinho, [Ivan] Chishkala, [Anton] Sokolov ... They are wonderful. They are favourites, but I think we have to be aggressive and make quick decisions. We always have to play to win, in every game."
Sergei Skorovich, Russia coach: "I'm delighted that we won the first match, but this is going very fast, and now that win doesn't mean anything. We have another game, against a great opponent, and that's what worries us now. We know Croatia very well, because we have played many games against them, and in the World Cup qualifiers – they are very physical, fast, with some very good players. They are also good tactically. To beat them we're going to have to give them our best."
Key stat: Skorovich will coach in his 25th Futsal EURO finals game, only the third man to reach that mark after Spain's José Venancio López (30) and Ukraine's Gennadiy Lysenchuk (27).
Poland vs Slovakia (20:30 CET, Amsterdam)
Slovakia actually struck first against Russia through Peter Kozár but dreams of an upset on their finals debut were soon dashed. Still, they showed enough in attack to take positives as they meet a Poland side disappointed by their start against Croatia. Trailing 3-1 at half-time, they could not turn the game despite dominating late on.
With Russia still to come, Poland know this need to be the time to end their wait for a first-ever Futsal EURO finals win, after their campaigns in 2001, 2018 and now 2022. Despite the scoreline against Russia, however, Slovakia showed enough against one of the tournament favourites to take hope for Tuesday. Anton Brunovský has been called up by Slovakia to replace injured Vojtech Turek.
Błażej Korczyński, Poland coach: "We must play bolder and faster. This is the first thing we need to change. We didn’t score from our power plays [against Croatia], we didn’t shoot, and that was a big problem for us. And we don’t want to concede stupid goals like goals number two and three on Friday. Slovakia play very fast, they have good players. They fight throughout, and I think it will be a good match."
Marián Berky, Slovakia coach: "Our expectations are very high. We want to win the game and we are going to give everything to do it. We need to move a lot and be very focused throughout the game, I think that will be the key. Poland are a very aggressive team, they run a lot. We need to control that and react appropriately."
Key stat: These teams have twice met in this competition, both in qualifying: their 1998 meeting ended 13-5 to Poland, the other in 1995 finished 0-0.