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Araz roused for bronze clash with Kairat

In the wake of the hosts' semi-final heartache, the Azerbaijani futsal community has rallied around Araz Naxçivan to lift them for the third place match against Kairat Almaty.

Araz's Adriano Foglia shows the pain of defeat at the final whistle of Thursday's semi-final
Araz's Adriano Foglia shows the pain of defeat at the final whistle of Thursday's semi-final ©Sportsfile

Araz Naxçivan have been reminded how close they came to beating FC Barcelona as the Azerbaijani futsal community rallied around Alesio's side on the eve of their third-place play-off with Kairat Almaty.

The 2013/14 UEFA Futsal Cup host club lost a dramatic semi-final 4-2 on penalties to Barcelona following a 4-4 draw at the Sarhadchi Olympic Sport Complex. If that was the cue for heads to drop around the Araz camp, nobody was telling Zaur Akhundov, president of the Azeri futsal federation, as he visited the team on Friday.

Akhundov told the squad that only the lottery of a shoot-out had denied them their dream of a home final in Baku on Saturday. "We should forget about the semi-final and think only about the Kairat match," the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) official said.

Even so, the Araz players could be forgiven for feeling floored by Thursday's defeat, with Alesio admitting the severity of the blow. Nonetheless, if they can muster anything like the spirit showed in recovering 3-1 and 4-3 deficits against Barça, then one last big push is possible in Saturday's 16.00CET (7pm local time) kick-off against Kairat. After all, there is still the prize of third place and emulating Araz's bronze medal in their only previous UEFA Futsal Cup finals in 2010.

"The Barcelona match will have been harder than the Kairat one tomorrow, although Kairat won this tournament last year and will now try to finish third," said Alesio. "Maybe Kairat didn't play to their full potential against Dynamo, but the majority of their players are Brazilian and they are talented futsal players."

While Davi is suspended after picking up a yellow card against the Catalans, the Brazilian coach recalls Edu from a similar ban and Vitaliy Borisov after an injury, meaning fresh legs for the challenge of the newly deposed champions from Kazakhstan.

Kairat consider themselves unfortunate to have succumbed, 2-1, to a late FC Dynamo goal, and their mood will hardly have been lifted by the injury sustained by the influential Alexandre Moraes. The latter's absence could leave Cacau without three key men in Alexandre, Rubinho and the doubtful Fumasa. Repeating their third spot of 2011 may prove difficult according to the coach: "Araz are a strong team with a very good coach. Alesio knows how to play against clubs like Barcelona and Kairat. It should be a great game."