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World Cup qualifying begins

European competition for six FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifying berths begins on Thursday with 37 teams competing for 12 play-off places to reach the Brazil-hosted finals.

Spain hope to repeat their 2004 World Cup success
Spain hope to repeat their 2004 World Cup success ©Getty Images

The European competition for six tickets to the 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup begins on Thursday with 37 teams challenging for 12 places in the qualifying play-offs.

Spain hat-trick bid
Among the contenders are Spain, bidding for a third straight World Cup triumph to accompany the second successive UEFA European Futsal Championship they won last November in Porto. They stage Group 3 in Caceres from Friday, against Georgia and Croatia, while two other sides who played in the European finals, Russia and Serbia, are in a group reduced to two teams as France have not travelled to Belgrade. The remaining eight pools have four participants and start tomorrow – when the runners-up in Porto, Italy, welcome Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Andorra to Pescara. In a strong field, Estonia and Montenegro play their first international futsal tournament while England, Bulgaria, Malta and Turkey make World Cup debuts.

Play-off aim
The ten group winners and two best runners-up will progress to the qualifying play-offs, with the six ties to be drawn on 5 March from 14.00 at UEFA headquarters in Nyon. The two-legged fixtures will be held in the weeks beginning 29 March and 12 April, with the six winners advancing to the finals in Brazil from 4 to 19 October.

2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifying round
28 February-2 March
Hosts in bold
Group 1Group 2
Group 3Group 4
GeorgiaF.Y.R. Macedonia
Group 5Group 6
BelgiumCzech Republic
Group 7Group 8
Group 9Group 10