The Azerbaijan coach will know all about Russia while holders Italy face debutants Kazakhstan, whose unusual tactics have made them a force to be reckoned with.
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In Tuesday's UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 quarter-finals, the Azerbaijan coach will know all about Russia while holders Italy face debutants Kazakhstan, whose unusual tactics have made them a force to be reckoned with.
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MONDAY'S QUARTER-FINAL RESULTS
Serbia 2-1 Ukraine
The hosts scored with 0.3 seconds left to reach their first semi-final.
Portugal 2-6 Spain
Ricardinho scored another sensational goal but it was Spain that starred.
The only previous meeting of these nations in UEFA Futsal EURO history was a qualifier in 2004 won 5-0 by Russia against an Azerbaijan team yet to achieve prominence in the sport. However, there will be plenty of familiarity thanks to the presence of Tino Pérez as Azerbaijan coach. He was in charge of Russia's FC Dynamo when they won multiple honours and reached two UEFA Futsal Cup finals. Russia's Gustavo, Romulo and Sergei Sergeev were among Pérez's Dynamo players and the rest of the squad will also be well known to him.
Russia, many people's pre-tournament pick, were sluggish by their standards in the group stage, beating Kazakhstan 2-1 and surviving a scare to draw 2-2 with Croatia and top Group C. Azerbaijan started by losing 3-0 to holders Italy but overcame the Czech Republic 6-5 with a late winner to reach the knockouts for the second time. Both teams will feel they need to improve but also that the draw has given them a great chance of making the final, though hosts Serbia will be no pushoevers for whoever gets through.
Player to watch: Amadeu (Azerbaijan) – Back after a red card against Italy meant he missed the Czech Republic game and a crucial extra option in Azerbaijan's attack.
Key number: 6 – Having drawn a blank against Italy, six Azerbaijan players scored against the Czechs, including Rafael with 40 seconds left.
Faustino Perez, Azerbaijan coach: "We had to suffer from the stands to see if we would qualify, but that suffering only lasted until Italy's second goal against the Czech Republic. Italy played very well and they deserved to win our group. Now we'll see if we are able to improve our level against Russia. I hope the fact we'll be playing in the quarter-finals will give us that little bit of extra energy and confidence. I know this Russia team very well because I have coached several of their players, but the same applies to them as they also know me quite well."
This is a meeting between finals debutants Kazakhstan and the reigning champions, Italy, and will provide a fascinating contrast in styles. Kazakhstan coach Cacau has used the same tactic that has proved influential in him leading Kairat Almaty to two UEFA Futsal Cup triumphs in three seasons, with goalkeeper Higuita pushed up into the outfield to help dominate possession. Italy, meanwhile, have kept the only two clean sheets so far and top-scored with ten goals, dominating the Czech Republic 7-0 on Sunday.
Kazakhstan, though, look a stronger outfit than the Azerbaijan or Czech teams Italy beat in Group D. Losing 2-1 to Russia and defeating Croatia 4-2 to go through on Friday, Kazakhstan have also had two extra days' rest and their Kairat core means this level with be nothing new to them, even if as a national team they are in unchartered territory.
Player to watch: Gabriel Lima (Italy) – Alessandro Patias stole the headlines against Azerbaijan with his superb back-heel goal, but it was captain Lima who proved Italy's fulcrum just as two years ago in Antwerp.
Key number: 7 – Italy overwhelmed Kazakhstan 7-0 in their only previous contest: a 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifier in Pescara. Kazakhstan's Dinmukhambet Suleimenov is the sole remaining player from that match.
Cacau, Kazakhstan coach: "Italy are tactically very strong and very dangerous from set pieces. Their two men upfront, Patias and Fortino, hold the ball very well and it's hard to defend against that. They both play in the Portuguese league and that has made them even stronger as they were able to improve their game. We are working very hard in order to prevent them from getting the ball so often, like in their two previous matches. Our biggest asset is our marking, our ability to stop opponents playing their normal game.
"We are prepared and of course we will use our usual tactic of playing five against four with Higuita. Everybody criticises our tactic, but those who criticise are not brave enough to do something similar. We are not afraid to take a risk and we didn't come to Serbia just for the ride: we are here to win. If we want to get at least a medal, then we'll have to win tomorrow."
Roberto Menichelli, Italy coach: "Kazakhstan play a particular way, it will be a different match. You might not even say it is a conventional futsal match. One team plays four men [outfield] and the other five. We also go into the game with different conditions to Kazakhstan, as we have only 24 hours to prepare and they last played on Friday. So they will be fresher than us and that will count."
Semi-final 1: Serbia v Russia/Azerbaijan (18.30)
Semi-final 2: Spain v Kazakhstan/Italy (21.00)
SATURDAY'S FINALS DAY
Third-place play-off (18.30)
All times CET
Now watch ...
Alessandro Patias scores back-heel stunner