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For the first time ever, the UEFA Futsal Champions League finals will feature a quartet of past winners.
In a thrilling culmination of the elite round, football enthusiasts can look forward to a showdown of Iberian powerhouses in the upcoming UEFA Futsal Champions League finals. FC Barcelona, SL Benfica, reigning champions Mallorca Palma Futsal, and Sporting CP have emerged victorious from their respective groups, setting the stage for a historic finals event in May.
(Main picture source: Riga Futsal Club)
Group A: Barça’s Resilience Shines
Barça, on a quest for redemption after missing out on the finals last season, displayed sheer determination in a tight 3-2 victory against hosts Riga Futsal Club. At kick-off, Riga, holding a two-point advantage, found reason for optimism as an own goal negated Adolfo’s early opener. However, the tide shifted after half-time, with Catela and Mamadou Touré propelling Barça back into control. Riga’s Thalles emerged as the top scorer with 15 goals, capping off a remarkable campaign.
From the main round to the elite round, Barça hasn’t exhibited the dominating form their fans typically anticipate. It will be intriguing to observe their progression throughout the season and witness how they elevate their performance heading into the Final Four. Riga Futsal Club has done an amazing job to get this far in the competition, reflecting on their opening game against French champions, Etoile Lavalloise, Senior Competitions Manager at UEFA, Laurent Morel posted on LinkedIn:
“I am obviously not neutral, but futsal is fascinating, not to say Homeric, sport. In top-level European games, consider the 4-5 goal between Etoile Lavalloise and Riga Futsal Clu , with less than a minute to go. Score the 4-4 with 37 seconds remaining and win the game with 6 seconds to the buzzer—there is a whole mental world behind it.
How do you coach your players when they face what seems like a decisive goal against?
How do you train them to be resilient within such a short time constraint?
How do you decide which tactic could become a turning point?
Where and when is the momentum where you, as a player or a coach, feel you can win it all (or feel you will lose it all)?
How do you (or can you) digest and refocus your players for the next game when you’ve lost such a game?
Add to that all the fans who are there witnessing the magic or the tragedy. And this is as amazing as it is frequent. Love it!”
Group B: Benfica’s Fourth Consecutive Finals Appearance
SL Benfica’s consistency shone through as they secured their fourth consecutive finals appearance, topping Group B with a game to spare. A crucial 3-2 win against two-time champions Kairat Almaty showcased Benfica’s talent, while a 10-1 victory against Prishtina solidified their spot in the finals. The challenge for Benfica will be progressing to the final, for the last two years they have finished in third place, runner-up to their rivals Sporting Clube de Portugal.
Group C: Sporting CP Eyes Record Tenth Finals Appearance
Sporting CP, last season’s runners-up, demonstrated their dominance with a decisive 4-1 victory against Sporting Anderlecht. This win secured Sporting CP’s record tenth finals appearance since the 2006/07 season, setting them on a path to potentially make history by reaching consecutive finals. However, while Portuguese futsal has consistently showcased dominance on the international stage, at the club level, Spanish futsal has long surpassed its Portuguese counterparts in performance.
Sporting Anderlecht’s inability to reach the final this season underscores the exceptional nature of their achievement last year. Reaching the finals again poses a formidable challenge, particularly when considering the struggles Kairat Almaty has faced in replicating their past successes in the competition.
Group D: Palma’s Title Defense Continues
Reigning champions Mallorca Palma Futsal secured their place in the finals, drawing 2-2 against FC Hit Kyiv. Their Ukrainian counterparts entered the match requiring a two-goal victory to overcome the hosts and secure a spot in the final four on their inaugural attempt. Palma showcased their resilience with a comeback win against Olmissum and a convincing 3-1 victory over Lubawa, emphasizing their intent to defend their title. However, securing back-to-back titles is a formidable task for any club, with no team achieving this feat since Inter Movistar clinched the championship in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.
Historic Finals on the Horizon
The knockout finals, scheduled for May 2/3 and 4/5, promise a historic spectacle as all four participating teams are past winners. This marks the first time in the tournament’s history that the finals will feature exclusively past champions, highlighting the rich history and competitive spirit of futsal in Europe.
Additional Noteworthy Achievements:
Kairat Almaty’s milestone as the first club to enter 20 seasons of UEFA futsal competition.
Sporting CP’s Nuno Dias achieved 50 competition wins as a coach with a single club.
Teams like Lubawa, Prishtina, and Riga making history by advancing from the preliminary round under the current format.
As the futsal community eagerly awaits the finals, the stage is set for an unforgettable clash of titans in May, where only the best of the best will vie for the prestigious UEFA Futsal Champions League title.
The author of the article
Stephen McGettigan was born in the Republic of Ireland but grew up in Belfast. He is the founder of Futsal Focus, a Football Industries MBA graduate from the University of Liverpool Management School, and he has worked in the Football and Futsal industries for 15 years.
Futsal Focus is a supporter of Dáithí Mac Gabhann and his family’s campaign to raise awareness of Organ Donation. We encourage our readers to learn more about Organ Donation: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/
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