The national futsal teams from Russia and Kazakhstan are competing Thursday in a Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Futsal EURO 2018 championship semi-final match, being held in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana.
Russia’s team is up against one of the world’s strongest teams, namely Portugal, in its attempt to make it to the final match, which will be held at the Arena Stožice on Saturday. Meanwhile, Kazakhstani futsal players will square off against the defending champion Spain.
The UEFA Futsal EURO 2018 championship games kicked off on January 10 in Slovenia, featuring 12 national teams from around Europe broken into four groups. Russia and Kazakhstan have competed in Group B, along with Poland. Kazakhstan qualified to the quarter-finals as a group leader with Russia, coming in at number two.
The quarterfinal matches for the two Caspian teams ended in victories that have led them to today’s semifinal games. Russia defeated Slovenia, and Kazakhstan outclassed the Serbian team, on February 5.
Both Russia and Kazakhstan teams are among the top 10 national futsal teams in the world, according to a list compiled by Futsal World Ranking. The most recent list from February 8 puts Russia in third place and Kazakhstan at number eight. Two other Caspian teams, namely Iran and Azerbaijan, rank fifth and tenth place, respectively.
Russia’s national team has qualified for six FIFA Futsal World Cup championship games, between 1992 and 2016, and competed in all European championships held since 1996. In 1999, it won the European title.
Kazakhstan’s team played in two FIFA Futsal World Cups in 2000 and 2016. In 2016 it clinched a bronze medal at the UEFA Futsal EURO 2016, which was the first European tournament it played.
FIFA estimates that futsal is played by 30 million people worldwide, compared to over 200 million people who play the game’s outdoor counterpart football (soccer). Futsal can be thought of as a smaller version of football, which was developed in Uruguay in 1930 and originally known as fútbol sala in Spanish, meaning “indoor football.” The game is played by two teams that kick a round ball, slightly smaller than the traditional football, into a goal net. Futsal teams are comprised of five players each, and play on a hard court, normally indoors, delimited by lines.