Kazakhstan are two points clear at the top of Group B after they twice came from behind to beat Finland 6-2, while Italy and Slovenia drew 2-2.
Article top media content
Kazakhstan moved two points clear at the top of UEFA Futsal EURO 2022 Group B as they twice came from behind to beat Finland 6-2, while Italy and Slovenia drew 2-2 at Groningen's MartiniPlaza.
Group B concludes on Friday when Kazakhstan meet Italy in Groningen and Slovenia face Finland at Amsterdam's Ziggo Dome. On Tuesday, we have the second set of Group C games in the Dutch capital.
With Lorenzo Pietrangelo in goal after Stefano Mammarella was ruled out, Italy led inside 40 seconds, Douglas Nicolodi running from deep on the right and outpacing Nejc Hozjan, before smashing the ball past Nejc Berzelak. The two-time champions were dominating, but in the tenth minute captain Alex Merlim deflected Teo Turk's kick-in into his own net.
With Kristjan Čujec coming out of international retirement to cover Gašpar Vrhovec's injury, Slovenia took command. Both Pietrangelo and the woodwork played their part in keeping Italy level until the 29th minute, when Hozjan robbed Merlim and rounded the keeper to make it 2-1. Merlim replied, driving in a free-kick via a deflection off Denis Totošković and the Azzurri pushed desperately for a winner. However, with their goal unguarded, they nearly lost it in the last seconds as Berzelak's clearance spun away off the post, Slovenia's players collapsing to their knees in frustration. Still, they are second, ahead of Italy on goals scored.
Massimiliano Bellarte, Italy coach: "We may have deserved to win, but it's not about deserving. I think sometimes we lacked concentration, and that prevented us from winning. I like everything about my team so far. They are doing great. We have a tough game coming up against Kazakhstan, like every match in this tournament. But we're going to play and I hope we can qualify."
Tomislav Horvat, Slovenia coach: "My team were very good today. This is not good for my heart, but I want to congratulate my players for the game and the tournament they are having. We know we are strong. We have done our job."
Key stat: Slovenia have registered nine points in their 15 Futsal EURO finals group games; seven of them have been against Italy (in four matches).
Debutants Finland were proving a match for two-time semi-finalists Kazakhstan even before they took a 13th-minute lead, as Douglas Junior's attempted clearance hit Henri Alamikkotervo and Miika Hosio got to the loose ball before goalkeeper Higuita and touched in. Kazakhstan, who equalised three times in the 4-4 draw against Slovenia, responded again, their pressure telling as Birzhan Orazov turned in at close range from Dauren Tursagulov's centre.
Having held Italy 3-3 on debut, Finland began the second half well and were ahead again when Jani Korpela's shot proved too hot for Higuita to handle. However, within a minute Higuita responded in a way only he could, smashing in a thunderbolt effort from halfway. Soon Kazakhstan edged in front, Douglas Junior's ball from the right backheeled by Orazov into Arnold Knaub's path to hit in first time. Orazov then got his second of the match, and third of the finals, with a shot inside the post. Knaub made it five following Edson's pass and Azat Valiullin struck at the death. Finland are a point adrift of Slovenia and Italy.
Higuita, Kazakhstan goalkeeper: "This win gives us tranquility and also time for us to work and improve the quality of our futsal even more. It always feels great to score a goal but I prefer not to concede because that's my job. Nevertheless it's always special to score at a Futsal EURO and I'm happy because it helped my team to get the result we needed."
Mićo Martić, Finland coach: "Before the EURO our objective and my dream was to get to the last game and still be in the mix. And we are still alive after today; it is no shame to lose 6-2 to one of the powerhouses of the sport."
Key stat: Higuita scored his third goal in 11 Futsal EURO finals appearances.