Spain were celebrating their fourth successive title after a memorable extra-time victory over Russia in the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 final in Zagreb. Italy also underlined their increasing ambitions and Croatia surprised many with their performances as hosts.
There was disappointment for Azerbaijan as they bowed out after the first round, while Ukraine and Portugal also fell short of their own lofty expectations. FIFA.com looks back on an exciting twelve days' action from Zagreb and Split.
A worthy final
In a dramatic decider it was Spain who emerged victorious with a 3-1 extra-time victory over Russia, clinching their fourth consecutive continental crown and sixth overall. It was the third time the Sbornaja have succumbed to their Iberian rivals in the final following previous defeats in 1996 and 2005.
Just 34 seconds of the final remained when Sergio Lozano cancelled out Pula's opener for Russia and, with penalties looming, the 23-year-old again struck in extra-time before goalkeeper Luis Amado capped off a triumphant evening for the Spanish with a third goal in the final second.
"It was a difficult championship because we had a lot of injuries to contend with," said two-goal hero Lozano after the match. "In the end we won it, though, and I'm very happy as it's my first title with the national team."
Italians consistent, hosts surprise
Italy overcame surprise package Croatia in the match for third place with a 3-1 victory. The Squadra Azzurra's third bronze medal at the tournament once again underscored their reputation as a force to be reckoned with on the continent.
Meanwhile Ukraine and Portugal were unable to live up to their own high hopes as both teams crashed out in the quarter-finals. While Ukraine lost to Croatia on penalties, A Selecção went down 3-1 against Italy.
The disappointment was even greater for Azerbaijan, who went into the tournament as dark horses for the title but after first-round defeats to Portugal and Serbia, were consigned to an early exit.
Spain's Torras proved a central figure in his country's fourth straight success, netting five goals in the tournament and creating another. "In spite of those goals, I'm not really a goalgetter," said the 31-year-old defender after being presented the adidas Golden Boot as the competition's top scorer. "I'm delighted with the European title. I'd like to dedicate this award to the coaches and everyone else who helped behind the scenes." Dario Marinovic (Croatia) and Vidan Bojovic (Serbia) were awarded the adidas Silver and Bronze Boots respectively.
Attentions turn to Thailand
Each of the ten teams involved in Zagreb and Split will now turn their attentions to the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 play-offs, with the first legs set to take place at the end of March.
The winners of the seven ties will each secure a place at the international showdown in southeast Asia:
Norway – Italy
Slovenia – Czech Republic
Azerbaijan – Russia
Slovakia – Spain
Hungary – Serbia
Belarus – Portugal
Romania – Ukraine
The first legs will be played between 25 and 28 March and the reverse fixtures between 8 and 11 April 2012.