The UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 final is between Russia and Spain, just as in 1996, 1999, 2005 and 2012, and all the signs are for another epic encounter at Arena Belgrade.
Of those four past finals, Russia only won the 1999 fixture – on penalties – but triumphed 4-3 after extra time in the most recent match between the sides in the 2014 semis in Antwerp, their first victory over Spain without recourse to spot kicks. Russia went on to lose the final to Italy, their fourth defeat in five appearances in the decider, while Spain have won six out of seven and their 2014 elimination ended a nine-year, four-tournament reign.
Spain came to Belgrade rocked by injuries to attacking players Adri, Aicardo, Sergio Lozano and Fernandao but have averaged five goals a game in their run to the final, only trailing briefly in the last four against Kazakhstan. Russia have made more stuttering progress, again needing extra time in a semi-final to see off hosts Serbia, and will be without 2014 Golden Shoe winner Eder Lima through suspension. Just as troubling, on Friday the players were confined to the hotel due to an illness bug. Still, having reached a third consecutive final, Russia's status as a 'tournament team' is again confirmed, and they never make things easy for Spain.
What they say:
Sergei Skorovich, Russia coach
It wasn't only difficult for us to get to the final. Spain had really difficult games too. The only match where they more or less controlled everything from start to finish was against Portugal. Even the semi-final against Kazakhstan was not easy for them.
As for us, we still have enough emotional energy and our physical condition is good too. Obviously we will do everything we can to win the final.
I think in terms of psychology, we have the advantage. We've played them many times. For the most part the games were really 50-50, however we always lost in the end. But last time finally we manged to win, so I think the ball is in our court now.
It's a shame Eder Lima will not play, it's a big loss for us. I can understand the logic of picking up the second yellow card but I still do feel sorry for him because he will miss the final. But that's life, we have to find a way to win without him.
José Venancio López, Spain coach
I hope we can maintain our standards in the final and if possible improve a bit on what we've been doing so far in the competition. Our objective is to keep improving in every match. That is the line we have been following in this tournament and the final match has to be our finest one.
We know that Russia have a great side and they reached the final because they are one of the best teams in the world. It's going to be a very tough final but also a very beautiful one.
Russia have very good players and those players can fill in for the suspended Eder Lima. Lima is an important player because he scores a lot of goals and of course it's good when a team can rely on a player like him; but they have other talented players and I don't think their standard will drop because of that.
Russia had problems in the semi-final against Serbia but they have been very consistent throughout the tournament. Russia have been improving since day one and I'm sure they will be at their best tomorrow.
Head-to-head: Played 20, Russia wins 1, Spain wins 16, draws 3. Goals: Russia 39-73 Spain
Players to watch
Russia: Robinho – got the winner late in extra time in the 2014 semi-final and was the star player in that contest; with Eder Lima's missing, Robinho's attacking prowess will be even more important.
Spain: Miguelín – Spain lost several important attackers to injury on the eve of the finals but Murcia's Miguelín is present and correct. The 29-year-old, with his distinctive greying hair, has been outstanding in creating and scoring goals, perhaps the main rival to Ricardinho as the player of the tournament.
2014: Italy 3-1 Russia; Antwerp, Belgium
2012: Spain 3-1 Russia (aet); Zagreb, Croatia
2010: Spain 4-2 Portugal; Debrecen, Hungary
2007: Spain 3-1 Italy; Porto, Portugal
2005: Spain 2-1 Russia; Ostrava, Czech Republic
2003: Italy 1-0 Ukraine; Caserta, Italy
2001: Spain 2-1 Ukraine (golden goal); Moscow, Russia
1999: Russia 3-3 Spain (aet, 4-3 pens); Granada, Spain
1996*: Spain 5-3 Russia; Cordoba, Spain
*UEFA European Futsal Tournament, championship status from 1999 onwards
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