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Superb Spain make it seven

Having had their nine-year reign ended in the 2014 semis by Russia, Spain avenged that defeat in style in 2016 to cap a record-breaking tournament in Belgrade.
by Paul Saffer
from Belgrade

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Superb Spain make it seven

Having had their nine-year reign ended in the 2014 semis by Russia, Spain avenged that defeat in style in 2016 to cap a record-breaking tournament in Belgrade.

It wasn't just the quantity but the quality: there were a record number of goals scored at UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 in Belgrade but their spectacular nature, and the way Spain reclaimed their title, was what will really live in the memory.

Qualifying threw up its usual dramas, with Kazakhstan beating Portugal on their way to a maiden qualification and Hungary pipping Romania in the play-offs with a last-second extra-time goal. There was also a spectacular start to the finals as a capacity 11,161 fans, a record for an opening game, saw hosts Serbia come from behind to beat Slovenia 5-1.

Serbia's next match was watched by a capacity crowd again and not only did the home team overcome Portugal 3-1, but that consolation was a stunning individual effort by Ricardinho that underlined his stellar reputation and quickly went viral on social media as well as earning an ovation from the home fans.

That result gave Serbia first place in Group A and meant they avoided Spain in the quarter-finals. The dubious honour of meeting the comfortable Group B winners went to Portugal, and despite another spectacular Ricardinho goal, Spain won 6-2. That followed Serbia's quarter-final in which they narrowly ousted Ukraine 2-1 after Miloš Simić had struck 0.3 seconds from the end.

Ricardinho's stunner

In the other half of the draw, Kazakhstan – with the same coach, Cacau, and most of the squad that had helped Kairat Almaty to victory in two of the last three UEFA Futsal Cups – came through their group behind Russia. Holders Italy registered ten goals without reply in Group D, Azerbaijan edging the Czech Republic 6-5 to finish second.

If Russia had been unconvincing in their group, they improved to defeat Azerbaijan 6-2 and an amazing sequence of quarter-finals was capped when Kazakhstan dethroned Italy 5-2. However, Kazakhstan had been reliant on goalkeeper Higuita and his ability to help keep possession – he was booked against Italy and ended up suspended for the semi-final with Spain.

So although Kazakhstan became the only team to lead Spain in the tournament and also mounted a late fightback from four goals adrift, the debutants lost 5-3. Serbia, meanwhile, fell 3-2 after extra time to Russia and were then seen off 5-2 for third place by Kazakhstan, achieving the highest-ever finish for a newcomer since the inaugural 1996 event.

Final highlights

The fifth Spain v Russia final was barely a contest. The Spanish aiming to avenge the semi-final upset in 2014 that halted their previous nine-year reign – stormed into a 4-0 half-time lead and their 7-3 victory was a record margin for a final. Spain's Miguelín and Mario Rivillos shared the Golden Shoe on assists, ahead of team-mate Alex, Portuguese star Ricardinho and Serik Zhamankulov of Kazakhstan, who also managed six goals in Belgrade.

That helped contribute to a tournament-record goal tally of 129, watched by a UEFA Futsal EURO-best total attendance of 113,820, with five of the ten double-header matchdays selling out. Spain have now won seven of the ten editions of the competition and this was probably the most convincing of the lot.

http://www.uefa.com/futsaleuro/history/season=2016/index.html#superb+spain+make+seven