Portugal beat Spain 3-2 after extra time to win the futsal European championship for the first time in their history, in Slovenia last night.
In an epic final, several parallels can be drawn with Portugal’s Euro 2016 football triumph. The Seleção overcame overwhelming odds (in 26 previous matches against Spain, Portugal had won only once), the match took place on the 10th of the month, and Portugal’s captain, talisman and best player, Ricardinho, was forced to abandon the match because of injury.
And just like in Paris 17 months earlier, after a late match-winning goal, the Portugal captain hobbled to the podium with a huge smile on his face to lift the trophy aloft.
On the rise
Futsal in Portugal has been on the up in recent years, with the FPF and clubs investing significantly in the sport, more players taking it up, and the high-speed extremely technical indoor version of the world’s favourite sport drawing big crowds.
Its increase in popularity has been reflected in the performance of the Seleção, which has achieved steadily improving results, most notably finishing runners-up in the 2010 Euro (losing to Spain in the final) and achieving a 3rd-place finish in the World Cup in 2000.
Hopes were therefore high as the competition hosted in Ljubljana kicked off, and Portugal duly played a brilliant tournament, winning four straight games to reach the final, scoring 20 goals in the process.
There was just one problem. In the decisive match they would meet Spain, the undisputed kings of the game in Europe, who in 10 previous European Championships had lifted the trophy no fewer than 7 times.
The final got off to the perfect start for Portugal, with Ricardinho, the world’s best player, robbing the last defender and powering his shot into the back of the net. The Seleção held the Spanish at bay for most of the first half, but just before the break Tolrà cleverly flicked the ball over goalkeeper André Sousa to equalise.
And when Miguelín put Span in front with less than 10 minutes remaining, things looked bleak for the Seleção. Miguelín then smashed a direct free kick against the bar, but Portugal were pressing hard, with Spain goalkeeper Sedano denying Ricardinho twice with excellent saves.
With just one minute remaining, and with the Portugal goalkeeper supporting the attack, Bruno Coelho tucked the equaliser into the roof of the net from point-blank range to take the match into extra time.
During extra time the Seleção were hit by a setback as Ricardinho was forced off injured, and with Spain pushing hard for a winner Portugal had a stroke of luck as they were saved by the post.
As the match went into the final minute, Portugal won a direct free kick, and André Coelho showed nerves of steel to coolly guide a powerful low show into the corner of the net.
In a last desperate throw of the dice Spain’s goalkeeper nearly equalised in the final seconds but the ball was miraculously cleared off the line, the final whistle blew, and the manic celebrations began.
By Tom Kundert