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UEFA Futsal EURO round-up and highlights: Italy deny Finland on debut, Kazakhstan and Slovenia draw

Italy equalised late in a 3-3 draw with debutants Finland after Kazakhstan and Slovenia opened Group B with a 4-4 thriller.

Alex Merlim of Italy embraces Finland's Panu Autio after their dramatic 3-3 draw
Alex Merlim of Italy embraces Finland's Panu Autio after their dramatic 3-3 draw SPORTSFILE

UEFA Futsal EURO finals debutants Finland were denied at the death by two-time champions Italy after Group B opened at Groningen's MartiniPlaza with a pulsating 4-4 draw between Kazakhstan and Slovenia.

Group B continues on Monday in Groningen when Italy play Slovenia and Kazakhstan meet Finland, while Group C begins on Friday in Amsterdam.

Kazakhstan 4-4 Slovenia

Highlights: Kazakhstan 4-4 Slovenia
Highlights: Kazakhstan 4-4 Slovenia

Kazakhstan recovered from 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2 deficits to share the points. They were given a warning when Matej Fideršek hit the post, then in the 11th minute Nejc Hozjan dispossessed advanced goalkeeper Higuita and Denis Totošković slotted in from distance. To make matters worse for Kazakhstan, Albert Akbalikov was sent off after a foul on Slovenia keeper Nejc Berzelak, but his side survived the power play and Douglas Junior volleyed them level at the break from Edson's corner.

Just after half-time, though, Slovenia produced a carbon copy of that Kazakhstan goal, Alen Fetić's kick met perfectly on the opposite side by Fideršek. Birzhan Orazov soon levelled after Slovenia were caught in possession but Žiga Čeh made it 3-2 as he picked up the ball in deep, advanced and shot past Higuita, and Teo Turk repeated the trick a couple of minutes later. Zhomart Tokayev's brilliant back-heel flick from Taynan's shot gave Kazakhstan hope and, with two minutes left, Douglas Junior's strike snuck in under the diving Berzelak.

Douglas Junior, Kazakhstan player: "We know that today we didn't play like we usually do do but that has to do with the way we prepared for this tournament, which was far from ideal. Nevertheless, when the match was going against us we never gave up fighting and were rewarded with a draw."

Žiga Čeh, Slovenia player: "I really don't know if we can feel confident for the future or simply frustrated with the fact that we were not able to hold on to a 4-2 lead. We played really well and I think we deserved to win, but it is what it is."

Key stat: This is the second Futsal EURO group to start with a 4-4 draw after Group D in 2018, when France held Spain.

Italy 3-3 Finland 

Highlights: Italy 3-3 Finland
Highlights: Italy 3-3 Finland

Italy denied Finland less than 90 seconds from time in a game with drama to match Kazakhstan vs Slovenia. The first of the four finals debutants to start their campaign, Finland struck in the opening minute as Henri Alamikkotervo let fly from distance after Jukka Kytölä played back a kick-in. However, Italy soon levelled when Douglas Nicolodi cut in from the left touchline and found the top corner.

Cainan de Matos's turn and shot with the outside of his boot put Italy into a 30th-minute lead only for Alamikkotervo's free-kick to equalise within ten seconds. And soon after Pano Autio, the Finland captain with more than 100 international goals to his name, produced a fantastic curling shot from distance to make it 3-2. Italy hit the woodwork more than once before De Matos levelled from a well-worked opening.

Mićo Martić, Finland coach: “I am happy with the result, I was dreaming about it! OK we conceded the last goal but our goalkeeper was fantastic and Italy were a powerful team."

Stefano Mammarella, Italy captain: "We were expecting just such a tough match against Finland. We played them in the past and we know their qualities but this is just the first match. We will improve for sure and we will need that as we are in a tight group."

Key stat: At 18 years 173 days, Italy's back-up keeper Dennis Berthod is the youngest player ever to feature in a Futsal EURO finals matchday squad, breaking by 182 days the record set in 2010 by another Azzurri man, Cristian Rizzo, in a meeting with Ukraine.