Spain reign again in futsal

Established forces Spain and MFK Dinamo Moskva were the big winners in futsal this year but the sport is undergoing big changes at many levels.

José Venancio led Spain to the European title
José Venancio led Spain to the European title ©Sportsfile

Spain retaining the UEFA European Futsal Championship and MFK Dinamo Moskva finally capturing the UEFA Futsal Cup do not suggest radical change in the small-sided game but both of UEFA's existing competitions took a big step upwards in 2007, with further progression coming in the form of a new tournament being launched in 2008.

Romanian sensation
While all the big guns including Spain, Italy, Russia and Ukraine secured their places in November's EURO finals in Portugal, there was a big sensation in qualifying with the success of Romania, who only started playing the sport in 2003. Indeed, they only discovered they had gained a first finals place when on the journey back from Slovenia, unaware that Belgium were playing out a victory against the home side that took Romania through on a tie-break.

Spain success
However, it was Spain that took the title in Portugal, after a tournament that topped the TV ratings in the host nation. Spain did not have things their own way, and indeed needed to score two late goals and win a penalty shoot-out to oust Portugal in the semi-finals, but their 3-1 defeat of Italy in the decider was clinical. They now turn their attentions to their defence of the World Cup, with six European places on offer for October's finals in Brazil.

Serbian stars
Italy had already proved their worth a round earlier with a 2-0 shut-out of 2005 runners-up Russia that set new standards of defensive play in futsal. They also beat Romania 7-1, but that team had proved themselves with an 8-4 defeat of the Czech Republic. Perhaps the real surprise package were Serbia, who had come out of a futsal hiatus to first qualify and then cause Russia a scare, sensationally hold Spain 1-1 with a late equaliser and defeat Ukraine 3-2. Predrag Rajić finished as joint top scorer with Spain's Daniel and Russia's naturalised Brazilian Cirilo, but Serbia's star was talented 23-year-old Marko Perić. Serbia will hope to be back in the expanded 12-team finals in 2009 that will be hosted by Hungary. Perić and Rajić have since joined MFK Dina Moskva in lucrative transfers.

Dinamo delight
The Russian league is indeed matching Spain's as Europe's best if the UEFA Futsal Cup is anything to go by. A revamped format in 2006/07 meant the competition now ended in a one-venue final four event at the end of April, hosted by Spanish champions ElPozo Murcia FS. Their hopes were ended with a dramatic last-second defeat by their domestic arch-rivals, holders Boomerang Interviú, but that team were to lose in similarly heart-breaking fashion in the final. MFK Dinamo Moskva, who had lost the previous two-legged deciders to Action 21 Charleroi and Interviú, turned the tables on the cash-strapped Belgian team in the semis before a 2-1 final win against the reigning champions thanks to a last-minute goal from recent Brazilian signing Pula.

U21 launch
A second final four event will decide this season's competition, with hosts Dinamo welcoming Russian rivals MFK Viz-Sinara Ekaterinburg, Murcia and Kairat Almaty to Moscow. A second final tournament will also take place in Russia in December, when St. Petersburg stages the inaugural UEFA European Under-21 Futsal Tournament, with 28 teams competing in April for seven finals places alongside the hosts.

2007 roll of honour

UEFA European Futsal Championship (Porto)
Winners: Spain
Runners-up: Italy
Third: Russia
Fourth: Portugal

UEFA Futsal Cup (Murcia)
Winners: MFK Dinamo Moskva (RUS)
Runners-up: Boomerang Interviú (ESP)
Third: ElPozo Murcia FC (ESP)
Fourth: Action 21 Charleroi (BEL)