Women's Futsal EURO 2023 semi-final preview: Spain vs Portugal, Ukraine vs Hungary
Friday, March 17, 2023
The Debrecen semis start with a rematch of the previous two finals before the hosts face Ukraine.
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The finals of the third UEFA Women's Futsal EURO kick off on Friday at the Fönix Arena in Debrecen, Hungary.
We preview the action as holders and two-time winners Spain take on Portugal, the runners-up in both previous editions, before hosts Hungary tackle Ukraine. The third-place play-off and final will be held on Sunday.
Women's Futsal EURO 2023 schedule
Friday 17 March
Spain vs Portugal (16:00)
Ukraine vs Hungary (19:30)
Sunday 19 March
Ukraine/Hungary vs Spain/Portugal (17:00)
Ukraine/Hungary vs Spain/Portugal (20:00)
All times CET
Spain vs Portugal
This will be a rematch of the two previous finals, staged in Gondomar, Portugal, in 2019 and 2022. But just as there is a new venue for this edition (one where Spain's men beat Portugal in the 2010 men's Futsal EURO final), there will be a different showpiece this time after the semi-final draw brought these forces together.
Spain defeated Portugal 4-0 in the first final, but last July it went to penalties after a 3-3 draw in which the hosts had led 2-0. Since then, Spain have won four friendlies against Portugal, two 2-0 away wins in October and a pair of 3-2 home successes in January.
There will be some familiar faces missing from the Spain squad compared to the first two final tournaments as Ame Romero has retired from the team and captain Ana Luján is injured, but stand-in skipper Peque (winning her 100th cap on Friday), goalkeeper Silvia, Luci, Mayte, Noelia and Irene Samper will all go for third titles.
However, just as last year, 2019 Player of the Tournament Vanessa Sotelo will be missing due to a knee injury, this one suffered in her last club game before the squad was due to meet. Antía is her replacement, having overcome her own history of knee injuries and having only made her senior Spain debut last month.
Portugal, aiming to emerge from the shadow of their neighbours (just as their men have in recent tournaments) beat Ukraine twice in two warm-ups last week. They can also call on a familiar line-up, including goalkeeper Ana Catarina, 2022 Player of the Tournament Ana Azevedo – capped more than 100 times – the thrilling Fifó and Janice Silva, and the ever-reliable Pisko and Inês Fernandes.
Carla Vanessa, meanwhile, scored a competition-leading eight goals in qualifying to take her overall tally to 18 – the Women's Futsal EURO record.
Key fact: These teams are meeting for the 46th time, with Spain leading 24-12 in wins and 131-92 in goals.
Clàudia Pons, Spain coach: “We know Portugal very well because we have faced them twice in the previous editions of the competition and also in various friendlies. This year we play in the semi-finals and it will be very hard for both teams. I’m sure Portugal will give everything after losing in the final twice but our main weapon will be to be our best possible version.
"Like I always say in matches like this one, small details will probably decide the winner. We will play like it’s the final. We want to experience once again the taste of becoming European champions and for that to happen the first step will be to beat Portugal. I’m not worried at all by the fact we lost the two recent friendlies against Brazil because we played well and it helped a lot in our preparation for this tournament."
Peque, Spain captain: "We have two very important players missing for this tournament but Spain are much more than just the 14 players who are here in Debrecen. We are here and represent all the players who helped in the preparation for these finals.
"We have huge confidence in what we do and in each other and that’s exactly what everybody will witness tomorrow. This will be my 100th match with Spain and I will wear the armband but it will be special only because it’s the semi-final and we can get closer to our main goal, which is to lift the trophy for a third time in a row."
Luís Conceição, Portugal coach: “We are not nervous at all but it is true that playing a semi-final of a Futsal EURO always brings a bit of anxiety and a lot of responsibility. Spain won the first two editions of the competition and have a very strong team. We won’t have the support of our fans like we did in Gondomar but we will be Portugal as always and we will approach the match with the correct attitude. In these kind of matches the competitive attitude of each team is always very important.
"I think Portugal and Spain are among the best women’s futsal teams in the world and for sure it will be another great match. In my opinion we are in a better moment when compared with Spain and that doesn’t change by the fact we lost four friendlies against them recently. In the first two one we were focused on qualifying for this EURO and in the last two we played better than them. We felt, quite possibly for the first time, that we have more quality than them.”
Ana Azevedo, Portugal captain: “Above all we’ll have to be competent and stay true to what we are. We’ll give everything on the pitch and try to take advantage of all the hard work we have done in the past three weeks. I am sure that if that’s the case and we give 200% of ourselves we’ll prevail in the end.
"We are in a good moment, united and very confident. You always feel nervous before a match but I don’t think that will happen more just because we are facing Spain in the semi-finals. We want this trophy and we know that we’re playing a match at the highest level possible but we live for occasions like this one. We’ll enter the pitch tomorrow with one thing in our minds: to honour Portugal."
Ukraine vs Hungary
With a third Spain-Portugal final impossible, one of the teams that tussled for bronze in Gondomar last July will reach the decider for the first time. Ukraine took third place in 2022 with a hard-earned 2-1 win, sparking huge celebrations.
The squad, much familiar from the 2019 and 2022 editions, is now spread across Spain, Portugal, Italy and Finland. It also includes the most intriguing 'new' call-up, Vira Dyatel, a bona fide Ukraine football legend, who played at UEFA Women's EURO 2009 in the 11-a-side game and, at 39, is set to make history by taking part in a major European final tournament in both sports.
Hungary made their finals debut in 2022 and performed beyond the expectations of many despite losing both games, with goalkeeper Lilla Torma impressing, in particular. They now have home advantage, 13 years on from their men's side hosting Futsal EURO 2010.
That year, Hungary went out in the group stage in Budapest so did not get to play in Debrecen, but the women will step out at Főnix Arena. Nevertheless, a pre-finals injury has denied Hungary the services of Csilla Krascsenics, whose two late goals against Czechia clinched this finals spot.
Key fact: Hungary pair Katalin Üveges and Adél Varga both played in their nation's very first futsal international, against Czechia in 2008.
Oleg Shaytanov, Ukraine coach: "We won 2-1 in the last match we played against Hungary and, like on that occasion, I think it will be a very difficult game for us.
"It wasn’t easy to prepare for this tournament but it was really important for us to face Portugal in the last two friendlies we had before coming here. Portugal and Spain are on a different level and took advantage of every second on the pitch to improve our game. We didn’t look at the result and just focused on improving every aspect of our game. You only get better when you face the best."
Iuliia Forsiuk, Ukraine captain: "One thing is for certain: it’s not going to be easy. We played Hungary in the last edition of the tournament and it was really hard for us to get the win. We respect our opponent but of course we want to win and there’s nothing else on our mind.
"We will do our best on the pitch so we can be in the final and maybe we can profit from the recent two friendlies we played against Portugal. Everybody will only look at the two heavy defeats we conceded in those matches but for me it was very important. I truly believe facing Portugal was better for us than one month of training sessions. We improved a lot and we want to see that against Hungary."
Tamás Frank, Hungary coach: “Our main objective is to play well against Ukraine because if we do that then we have a good chance of winning the match and qualifying for the final. We are not the favorites as that role belongs to the Ukrainians but we have an important advantage of playing in front of our amazing fans. We want to give them a reason to celebrate.
"We prepared for this tournament in the best possible way and we are ready. Every single player in the team wants to achieve success and our motivation couldn’t be higher. Ukraine are a very creative team and especially strong in attack, while also poising a threat on set-pieces. We will need to defend in a solid way and take advantage of any chance to score we might have."
Adél Varga, Hungary captain: "We are all amateur players and we dedicate ourselves to the sport after our regular jobs but our ambition couldn’t be higher. We faced Ukraine last year and we managed to give them all sorts of problems so maybe we can go even further.
"We never played before in front of a home crowd like the one we will have in the semi-finals. It’s true that their support can help us but then again it can also make us feel a bit pressured. Personally it will be a big motivation for me to play in front of my family and that will motivate me even more. It’s been a long time since my first match for my country and futsal has evolved a lot since then. I still love to play the game."