EURO in sight, World Cup in mind
© AFP

The futsal world will turn its attentions to Croatia at the end of January as the UEFA futsal EURO 2012 kicks off in Split and Zagreb, with 12 teams set to compete for the continental crown. Spain, losing finalists at the FIFA futsal World Cup 2008, go into the tournament as hot favourites, but the likes of Russia, Italy, Azerbaijan and Portugal all carry realistic hopes of claiming the title.

The Iberians are aiming for their fourth consecutive trophy but face a tough task in overcoming UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts Ukraine, who have twice reached the final of the competition (2001 and 2003), and Slovenia in the group stage.

Hosts Croatia have been drawn alongside 2010 bronze medallists Czech Republic and Romania in Group A. Meanwhile Portugal, runners-up in Hungary two years ago, are pitted against Azerbaijan (semi-finalists in 2010) and Serbia, who reached the quarter-finals at the last edition.

Russia, who narrowly lost out to the hosts and eventual champions at Brazil 2008 before themselves finishing fourth, are joined by Italy (third place in 2008) and debutants Turkey in Group C.

Play-offs cast their shadow
On 11 February, ten of the 12 EURO participants will divert their focus to the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2012 play-off draw, also in Zagreb. The seven ties will determine which European teams will compete in Thailand, with the first leg scheduled for 25-28 March and the second for 8-11 April.

After finishing top of their respective groups in qualifying, Spain, Italy, Serbia, Portugal Ukraine, Czech Republish and Russia will be seeded in pot one for the draw. Pot two contains EURO participants Romania Slovenia and Azerbaijan, as well as Norway, Slovakia, Belarus and Hungary.

Needless to say, there is plenty of top European futsal action to look forward to over the coming weeks and months, so keep an eye on FIFA.com for all the latest news and info.