Futsal Euro 2007 Championship Begins

UEFA Futsal Championship logoIt’s all starting tomorrow: the 5th edition of the UEFA Futsal Championship (an Euro 2007 of Indoor Soccer if you will). And it’s starting with a clash between giants, a match which features two eternal rivals and big favorites for the champions title, Portugal and Italy.

The set-up for this match is quite particular: Portugal is playing with the home crowd advantage (the entire tournament will take place in Porto, Portugal) but the Lusitanians have never managed to beat the Azzurri so far (3 draws and 2 losses to the counter). In addition, vice-World Champions Italy will be coming back to Portugal for the first time after the slap in the face of 1999, when they tied 3-3 in the final game of the World Cup 2000 qualifiers in Paços de Ferreira, a match in which the Portuguese keeper França continuously moved his goal posts in the final minutes in order to decrease the shooting angle.

Futsal Rules in a nutshell

• Games are played on a rectangular pitch approximately 40m long and 20m wide. Playing surface is usually made of wood or artificial material (flat, smooth, non-abrasive).
• Duration of the match is two periods of 20 minutes, with a 10-15 min. half-time interval. Clock is considered “out of play” (that is, time is stopped every time the ball is out of play for a kick-in, free-kick, corner-kick etc.). Teams are entitled to a one-minute time-out in each half.
• Matches are played 5 vs. 5 (including the goalkeeper). Team roster includes 14 players, with unlimited substitutions allowed.
• Kick-ins are taken instead of throw-ins, and must be taken within 4 seconds of the player taking possession of the ball.
• Fouls & free-kicks: for the first 5 accumulated fouls recorded against either team in each half, the players of the opposing team may form a wall to defend a free-kick. Beginning with the 6th accumulated foul recorded against either team in each half, the defending team’s players may not form a wall to defend a free kick, and all the other players (except the kicker) must remain BEHIND the ball (i.e. behind an imaginary line that is level with the ball and parallel to the goal line). No player may cross this imaginary line until the ball has been struck and starts to move.

The tournament will take place in the Coração de Ouro di Gondomar palace, just at the entrance of Porto. The program for the day, after Portugal vs. Italy at 19:30, will be the other match from group A, Czech Republic vs. Romania. On Saturday, group B will debut with Spain (European & World Champions) battling Ukraine at 15:00, and Serbia vs. Russia at 17:00. Then, November 18: Italy vs. Romania and Portugal vs. Czech Republic, November 19: Ukraine vs. Russia and Spain vs. Serbia. November 21 will be the final day of the group stage, with concurrent matches Romania vs. Portugal, Italy vs. Czech Republic, Ukraine vs. Serbia and Russia vs. Spain. The top 2 teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals (November 23). In 2 years’ time for the next Euro championship, the total number of teams taking place in the tournament will be increased from 8 to 12.

Title favorites

UEFA Futsal Championship trophyIn addition to reigning European and World Champions Spain, the biggest favorites of the tournament are Italy, Russia, and Portugal. “All the eyes are on us” says Venancio Lopez, recently appointed Spain coach after the 15-year reign of Javier Lozano. “We have responsibilities, it will not be easy to win“.

Words of wisdom, because ready to contend the title to the Iberians will be Alessandro Nuccorini’s Italian team, eager to return on the top of Europe after their victory of 2003. “Our main objective is to win” says Nando Grana, the Azzurri captain. “Our group is very strong and united“. Italy will be entering this tournament with a 15-game winning streak record, not suffering a defeat for over 2 years and a half. However, they will be missing the services of their top-notch goalkeeper Gianfranco Angelini, who stayed at home due to family problems.

In addition to Italy, the other contenders Portugal and Russia have valid claims to the title as well, counting respectively on Ricardinho / Alex and Russian-naturalized Brazilians Cirilo and Pelé Junior.

Among the teams that could potentially create a surprise we can find the Ukraine, a group which coach Gennadiy Lysenchuk has considerably improved over the last years (“We are in the group of death but the talent of Sytin, Zamyatin and Khursov makes me a little more confident” said the coach). Then there’s also the Czech Republic of team manager Tomáš Neumann: “We are aiming towards the top 3, even though beating Italy and Portugal will be extremely hard“. Finally, there’s Aca Kovacevic’s Serbia, surprise winners over the Netherlands in the qualifiers, and Romania, which at their first Euro tournament are essentially composed by players from the Cip Deva team (11 out of total team roster of 14).

For more information of the UEFA Futsal Championship tournament, visit their official website.

UEFA Futsal Tournament History

FIFA introduced Futsal as a new discipline in 1988 and Brazil were crowned as the first FIFA Futsal World Cup winners in January 1989. Futsal was rapidly gaining popularity in Europe and the number of Futsal-playing countries increased considerably during the 1990s.

This enthusiasm in Europe was reflected on the pitch and UEFA staged its first European Futsal tournament in Córdoba, Spain, in January 1996. It was won by the hosts in some style and, after three European teams had reached the semi-finals of the World Cup staged later that year, UEFA’s Executive Committee decided, in April 1997, to introduce a full-scale UEFA European Futsal Championship.

Spain celebrate their triumph in 2005The UEFA European Futsal Championship was first held in Granada, Spain in 1999 with Russia running out the first winners in a dramatic final against the hosts. The match finished 3-3 before Russia prevailed in a shoot-out, Konstantin Eremenko converting the winning spot-kick. Spain would make up for that disappointment by winning the Championship in 2001 in Moscow, defeating hosts Russia in the last four before seeing off Ukraine in the final.

Ukraine were back in the final in 2003, but again they lost, this time to hosts Italy, Vinicius Bacaro scoring the only goal of the game. Spain, FIFA Futsal World Cup winners in 2004, reclaimed the European crown in 2005, Andrea and Cogorro scoring in a 2-1 win as old rivals Russia were defeated in the final. The 2007 finals will be played in Portugal from 16 to 25 November.

Note: Special thanks to Gazzetta dello Sport for their presentation article on the UEFA Futsal Championship. Tournament History data courtesy of uefa.com.


Posted in Futsal, Miscellaneous, World News |

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  • 2 Responses to “Futsal Euro 2007 Championship Begins”

    1. Serja says:

      Heh… interesting stuff Marco. Indoor soccer sure doesn’t have the same popularity as the 11 vs. 11 game, so it’s nice that you decided to cover it here. :smile:

    2. Thanks Serja! :wink: I sure hope Italy will reclaim their 2003 title! :)