- UEFA has held its qualifiers for the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2020
- Russia, Portugal, Spain and Kazakhstan book their tickets to Lithuania
- Two more qualifying berths will be filled via the play-offs in April
The UEFA elite round of qualifying for the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2020 drew to a close on Wednesday 5 February as the first four European teams to join hosts Lithuania were decided.
Favourites Russia, Spain and Portugal joined Kazakhstan as group winners to secure their places at this year’s finals. The four runners-up go into the play-offs for the remaining two UEFA berths on 9 and 12 April, with Croatia set to face the Czech Republic, and Serbia playing Finland.
Portugal remained undefeated in Group A and only dropped points in a draw with Finland, enabling them to finish as group winners and secure direct qualification for the World Cup.
The fourth-placed side from Colombia 2016 saved their best for last in a dazzling display against Italy. Superstar Ricardinho scored twice to lead his team to a 4-1 win and book their tickets to Lithuania. Finland caused a minor sensation of their own, drawing 2-2 against both Italy and Portugal and beating Belarus 4-2 to give themselves a chance of reaching the World Cup via the play-offs, while Italy were eliminated.
Spain proved unstoppable in Group B. The two-time world champions emerged as clear group winners as the only team to win all of their matches in the UEFA elite round. Serbia finished as runners-up to book their spot in the play-offs, having paved the way for this success with their shock 5-2 victory over Ukraine in the opening game.
In Group C, reigning World Cup runners-up Russia kept things exciting by losing 4-3 to Azerbaijan after kicking off their campaign with a resounding 7-1 win over Slovakia. Croatia won both of their opening matches – 2-0 against Azerbaijan and 3-2 against Slovakia – to set up a showdown with Russia in the final group game.
Eder Lima, adidas Silver Boot and Silver Ball winner as the second-best goalscorer and player at the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2016, netted a brace to steer Russia to a narrow 4-3 victory and secure their spot at the finals in Lithuania. Croatia still have an opportunity to join them by winning their play-off tie.
Group D was settled by a genuine decider on the final matchday. Kazakhstan needed to win to overhaul group leaders Czech Republic and did so comfortably by a 5-2 scoreline, with Douglas Junior scoring three goals in a man-of-the-match performance to send Kazakhstan to the World Cup. Having only needed a draw in their final game to seal qualification, the Czechs must now navigate the play-offs if they are to make it to this year’s finals.
What happens next?
The last two UEFA berths at the World Cup will be determined in the play-off round on 9 and 12 April, with both matches to be decided over two legs.
Croatia – Czech Republic
Serbia – Finland