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Posted by portugalpress on February 13, 2018

Portugal lifted the Futsal EURO 2018 championship trophy in Ljubljana, Slovenia on Saturday night when they beat Spain 3-2 after extra-time. This was the country’s first European futsal title and highlighted how far this high-speed, extremely technical, indoor version of the world’s favourite sport has come in a relatively short period of time.

In a thrilling final, Portugal overcame Spain against all the odds - they had won only once in 26 previous matches against their Iberian neighbours - and their talisman and best player Ricardinho was forced to retire from the final because of injury.

The sport’s increase in popularity has achieved steadily improving results, most notably finishing runners-up in the 2010 Euro and a third-place finish in the World Cup in 2000. This time round, Portugal played a brilliant tournament, winning four straight games against Romania, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Russia in the semis to reach the finals whilst scoring 20 goals in the process.

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 Spanish were held at bay for most of the first-half, but just before the break Tolrà cleverly flicked the ball over goalkeeper André Sousa to equalise.

When Miguelín put Spain in front with less than 10 minutes to play, things looked bleak, but with just a 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, Portugal’s Ricardinho was forced off through injury and Spain were pushing hard for a winner. Portugal survived as their opponents hit the woodwork.

With the clock ticking down, Portugal won a direct free-kick and André Coelho, showing nerves of steel, coolly guided 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.

The following day, the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, received the victorious team in the Palace of Belém. In his speech of thanks, the Head of State stressed the "capacity to dream", and "togetherness and humility" of the group led by Jorge Braz.

By CHRIS WRIGHT

Photo: Ricardinho, considered the world’s best futsal player, lifts the trophy as his team celebrate the victory over Spain and the title of European Futsal champions

Photo by: NUNO FOX/LUSA

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