Pushed all the way in their UEFA play-off tie against Slovenia, Spain eventually came through to earn one of the seven European berths on offer at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016.
Qualifying alongside the Spanish at the end of Tuesday’s second legs were Azerbaijan, who will be making their first appearance at the world finals, Portugal, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. The seventh and final slot went to Italy, who saw off Hungary on Wednesday.
A close-run thing
Though they eventually ran out 5-2 aggregate winners, Spain were given a scare by a Slovenia side that had won the first leg 1-0 and were looking to qualify for the world finals for the first time.
Ahead on the away-goals rule with only five minutes of the return leg remaining, the Slovenians were ultimately undone by Raul Campos’s second strike of the game, which put the Spanish ahead on aggregate. Miguelin and Aicardo added late goals to extend the margin of victory, with Ortiz having earlier scored Spain’s other goal.
As well as avoiding what would have been one of the biggest shocks in international futsal, Spain’s hard-fought win preserves their record of being only one of three teams to contest every Futsal World Cup to date, Brazil and Argentina being the other nations.
In contrast to La Roja, Italy had no problem booking their place in Colombia, disposing of Hungary 6-0 to complete a 9-0 aggregate win. Third at Thailand 2012, La Azzurra will be taking part in their seventh world finals, the second-best record in Europe. Their stand-out player was Sergio Romano, who scored two of their goals.
Though Russia could only play out a 2-2 draw at home to Belarus, they eased through on aggregate thanks to their 4-1 win in the first leg. Naturalised Brazilian Eder Lima, the winner of the adidas Golden Boot at Thailand 2012, scored Russia’s second of the night as they checked into the world finals for the third time running and the sixth time in all.
Portugal, who have never missed the Futsal World Cup since making their debut at Guatemala 2000, were another big name made to work hard in their second leg, against the ever-combative Serbia. Fresh from recording a 2-1 win in the away leg, the Portuguese won by the same narrow scoreline again, with their goals coming from Cardinal and Tiago Brito, while Ricardinho missed from the spot.
Ukraine made short work of Slovakia, meanwhile, easing to a 5-1 win and an aggregate victory of 11-1. Veteran Serhiy Zhurba scored a brace for the Ukrainians, who will be playing their fourth consecutive futsal world finals and their fifth in all.
Kazakhstan were no less impressive in disposing of Poland 7-0 (aggregate 8-1). Serik Zhamankulov and Douglas Jr both got on the scoresheet twice for the home side, who finished third at Futsal EURO 2016, and will be taking part in only their second Futsal World Cup, the first having come at Guatemala 2000.
Last but not least, Azerbaijan earned themselves a world finals debut courtesy of their 4-4 home draw with the Netherlands, which gave them a 9-5 aggregate win. Rizvan Farzaliyev, Amadeu, Eduardo and Rafael were the men on target for the Azeris, who were never behind and will be the only European debutants at Colombia 2016.
Play-off second-leg results:
Spain 5-1 Slovenia (Spain win 5-2 on aggregate)
Ukraine 5-1 Slovakia (Ukraine win 11-1 on aggregate)
Kazakhstan 7-0 Poland (Kazakhstan win 8-1 on aggregate)
Portugal 2-1 Serbia (Portugal win 4-2 on aggregate)
Russia 2-2 Belarus (Russia win 6-3 on aggregate)
Azerbaijan 4-4 Netherlands (Azerbaijan win 9-5 on aggregate)
Italy 6-0 Hungary (Italy win 9-0 on aggregate)
Teams in bold qualify for Colombia 2016