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Futsal World Cup play-offs begin

The FIFA Futsal World Cup play-offs start on Sunday with seven places on offer in the November finals in Thailand, two-time winners Spain and 2004 runners-up Italy among the hopefuls.

EURO finalists Spain and Russia both hope to progress to the World Cup
EURO finalists Spain and Russia both hope to progress to the World Cup ©Action Images

The seven European entrants for the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup will be set when the play-offs begin on Sunday.

Fourteen sides emerged from the main round to earn these two-legged ties. Europe provides one more finalist than four years ago in Brazil in the expanded 24-nation final tournament, which takes place in Thailand from 1 to 18 November. The first of the ties to begin matches Hungary – who have not qualified since the inaugural 1989 edition – and Serbia, aiming to make their debut World Cup.

A day later, Spain, whose bid for a third straight world title was ended in the final by Brazil last time but retained their European crown in February, go to Slovakia. Meanwhile, the side they beat in the continental final, Russia, are up against Azerbaijan on Tuesday in probably the tightest of the ties. The last first leg pits a team on their first World Cup campaign, Norway, with 2004 runners-up Italy. The second legs are played from 8 to 11 April.

Play-off schedule
Hungary v Serbia (25 March/8 April)
Belarus v Portugal (26 March/10 April)
Slovakia v Spain (26 March/10 April)
Slovenia v Czech Republic (26 March/11 April)
Romania v Ukraine (27 March/8 April)
Azerbaijan v Russia (27 March/9 April)
Norway v Italy (28 March/11 April)