UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 preview: Group D
Zagreb plays host to the tightest of the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 sections as 2010 runners-up Portugal, fourth-placed Azerbaijan and quarter-finalists Serbia meet in Group D.
by Paul Saffer
Zagreb plays host to the tightest of the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 sections as 2010 runners-up Portugal, fourth-placed Azerbaijan and quarter-finalists Serbia meet in Group D. UEFA.com profiles the contenders: click on the video above to hear coaches’ thoughts.
Portugal reached the final for the first time in 2010, losing a thriller 4-2 to Spain in Debrecen, and in their knockout games beat Serbia 5-1 and Azerbaijan on penalties – good omens for this group. Although the team is familiar from two years ago, with the addition of Ricardinho – the star man in their 2007 semi-final run but injured last time out – there is a new coach in the shape of Jorge Braz, who previously assisted the long-serving Orlando Duarte.
Best performance: runners-up 2010
Qualifying round: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 3-1, Belarus 5-1, Poland 6-0 (Group 3 winners)
Key players: Cardinal, Joel Queirós, Ricardinho
Jorge Braz, coach: “We want to be in the next phase. The question of whether we are favourites or not, that depends on preparation.”
Serbia only just squeezed into the finals, grateful for a Russia victory against the Netherlands in the last game of their qualifying group to pip the Dutch on goal difference. They had actually only held the Netherlands in the dying seconds but now they are in the final tournament, Serbia have a good record to defend. They drew with Spain in an impressive 2007 performance and last time stunned Russia to top their group before falling to Portugal. Missing is star forward Marko Perić.
Best performance: quarter-finals 2010
Qualifying: Netherlands 3-3, Russia 0-3, Finland 6-0 (Group 2 runners-up)
Key players: Bojan Pavićević, Mladen Kocić
Aca Kovačević, coach: “I hope we will be able to repeat the success we achieved at the previous European Championship. I hope we will be able to win against a favourite and try to get to the next round.”
Azerbaijan took many by surprise on their finals debut two years ago, topping their group and beating Ukraine on penalties in the last eight before falling on spot kicks to Portugal. Alesio has pretty much the same very experienced team to call on this time, most of the key men playing under him at champion club Araz Naxçivan. Strapping pivot Serjão was the five-goal top scorer of the qualifying round, and was a fans’ favourite at Hungary 2010.
Best performance: semi-finals 2010
Qualifying: Kazakhstan 6-3, France 4-2, Spain 3-8 (Group 1 runners-up)
Key players: Andrey Tveryankin (goalkeeper), Serjão, Biro Jade, Felipe
Andrey Tveryankin, goalkeeper: “Azerbaijan can repeat the result of 2010. We are strong enough to do it, but only the tournament will show. We will be at our usual level at the very least.”
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