Italy and Portugal have taken a giant stride towards the semi-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Championship.
The four European sides are battling it out for the two places on offer from Group E in the second stage of the finals being played in Chinese Taipei. After they drew 0-0 in yesterday's first matches, the Italians and Portuguese were both winners in Tao Yuan County today to move on to four points.
An ecstatic Italy saw off the threat of defending champions Spain with a hard-fought 3-2 triumph. Javier Lozano's men took the lead through the in-form Javi Rodríguez inside the opening minute but the key action was to come in the closing seconds of the first half.
After Pellegrini's eighth-minute equaliser, Italy struck twice just before half-time to take a stranglehold. Fabiano took full advantage of some bright approach play to put the Azzurri in front before a Grana shot ricocheted off Orol for Italy's third. Marcelo pulled one back for Spain in the 30th minute but Italy, and goalkeeper Marco Ripesi, in for the injured Gianfranco Angelini, held firm.
Portugal, meanwhile, turned in a devastating second-half display to win 8-4 against the Czechs, who have been eliminated as a result. After a close first half that finished 3-3, Orlando Duarte's men were a different proposition after the interval. Gonçalo stood out with two goals while Joel Queirós's late penalty completed his hat-trick. Portugal now need just a draw against the Spanish, who have to win to go through, on Wednesday while the Czechs will play for pride against Italy.
Sytin the saviour
Meanwhile, Group F's second games were also played today. Ukraine, the only European side of the four in the section, were 3-1 winners against the United States to keep their dreams of progress alive. Serhiy Sytin's two goals either side of the break were key for Gennadiy Lysenchuk's team who made sure of victory in the last minute through Vitaliy Nesteruk.
In the group's other match, Brazil beat Argentina 2-1 to clinch top spot and a place in the next round. The results mean Ukraine will meet Argentina in a winner-takes-all contest for second place on Wednesday, while the US will sign off their involvement against the might of Brazil.