Fourteen European teams this morning learnt who they will have to defeat in the final round of UEFA’s qualifying competition, being held in Croatia, if they want to be on the starting line for the seventh FIFA Futsal World Cup in Thailand later this year.
Representatives from all fourteen nations, whittled down from the 41 countries who had initially started out in the qualifying competition, gathered in the Grand Ballroom of Zagreb's Sheraton Hotel to learn their fate, braving the sub-zero temperatures and snow.
Croatian cities of Zagreb and Split have hosted the UEFA Futsal Euro competition for the past ten days, with Spain and Russia facing off later today at the Zagreb Arena in the final.
Conducting the draw was the President of UEFA's Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee Borislav Mihaylov, the legendary former goalkeeper who is now President of the Bulgarian Football Union.
Seven teams (Spain, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Czech Republic, Ukraine and Serbia) were seeded and will play the first leg of the play-off away from home. The unseeded teams were: Azerbaijan, Hungary, Romania, Belarus, Slovenia, Slovakia and Norway. The Nordic team received a special mention for reaching this stage for the first time.
The winners on aggregate of the following seven ties will qualify for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012, where for the first time ever, 24 teams will battle it out for the world title.
Norway v Italy
Slovenia v Czech Republic
Azerbaijan v Russia
Slovakia v Spain
Hungary v Serbia
Belarus v Portugal
Romania v Ukraine
The first leg matches must be played between 25-28 March 2012, with the second leg to be played between 8-11 April 2012.
A comprehensive list of all the Confederation qualifying competitions and dates can be here.