Originating from South America, where it took its roots in the 30’s, futsal has gradually gained popularity all over the world, especially in Europe. Spain has been the driving force, becoming the first European team to win the World Cup and hosting the first two UEFA Futsal European Championships. Will the seven-time winners and defending champions confirm their reign on the Slovenian soil next year?
Together with the growth in popularity a need for organisational advancement arose. UEFA united the national associations under its wing and significantly helped the evolution of the sport. UEFA has organised 10 UEFA Futsal European Championships since 1996.
Spain, seven-time European champions and two-time World champions, are the undisputed number one futsal team in Europe. They have won seven of their eight finals, losing only to Russia after the penalty shootout in 1999.
Slovenia is the first team that managed to beat team Spain in 2016 after their 10 year run without a single defeat in regular time!
At UEFA Futsal EURO 2018 in Slovenia Spain will, if they successfully qualify, go after their 8th European title. Slovenia showed that they are vulnerable, beating them last year and becoming the first team to do so in regular time in over a decade.
Slovenia’s neighbour to the west, Italy, is just behind Spain when counting European titles. The undisputable futsal powerhouse has two titles, with especially fond memories of the first one, when they lifted the trophy in 2003 in front of their home crowd.
Italy successfully broke a string of four consecutive European titles for Spain, winning their second title in Antwerp in 2014. Interestingly enough, Slovenia was the only team to defeat Italy (3:2) in Belgium, getting the better of them in the group stage.
Completing the trio of national teams with at least one European title, is Russia, who gave the world of futsal an amazing player and a master of the futsal ball, Konstantin Eremenko. Tragically deceased in 2010, Eremenko was the designer behind Russia’s fairy-tale in Spain, when Russia beat the host nation in the final. With the tie levelled at 3:3 after 40 minutes, Russia showed more composure in the penalty shootout (4:2). The fact that Russia played in the six finals of the UEFA Futsal Euros, including the last three, demonstrates their quality.
With Ricardinho at the forefront, Portugal is a team of great individuals, yet still waiting for that elusive European title. They came the closest in Hungary in 2010 when they lost the final to Spain.
Portugal showed flashes of brilliance at the last UEFA Futsal Euro in Serbia in 2016. The stand-out was Ricardinho’s extravagant goal against the home team which set off excitement among all the football fans – not just futsal fans! He was undoubtedly one of the biggest stars of the tournament and is expected to shine once again in Slovenia in 2018.
Where is Slovenia’s place?
Slovenia, the host of the UEFA Futsal EURO 2018, has competed at five Euros so far; progressing to the knockout stage once, in Belgium in 2014, after beating eventual champions Italy (3:2) in the group stage.
Slovenia could prove to be a thorn in the sides of the favourites in front of their home crowd and full stands of Stožice Arena. The team, lead by long-time head coach Andrej Dobovičnik, will be eager to earn a place in the knockout stage for the second time. They hope to be spurred on by their shocking win against Spain in qualification play-off for the Futsal World Cup last year, which was described by many as one of the biggest surprises in futsal history.