England won two of their three preliminary round matches in Latvia to qualify for the main round of the 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup.
Michael Skubala’s side opened up with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Gibraltar thanks to goals from captain Raoni Medina, Liam Palfreeman and a brace from Richard Ward.
The Futsal Lions sealed qualification just 24 hours later courtesy of a thrilling 5-4 win over Cyprus.
The two sides traded blows in the opening 13 minutes with Nikos Chadjigeorgiou cancelling out strikes by Doug Reed and Agon Rexha.
William Wallace nudged England ahead again just before the quarter-hour mark only for Angelos Perikleous to bring the scores back level once more.
Robbie Bettson put England in front again just seconds later but Chadjigeorgiou completed his hat-trick to make it 4-4.
It was left to James Webb to clinch victory with just nine seconds left on the clock.
“To defend for so long is tough but we managed the game well and left it later than we would have wanted, but it was a great ending to the game for us,” said Skubala.
England dominated their final group match, against Latvia, for large spells, but it was the hosts who ran out 3-1 victors in a match they had to win, Ward nabbing the Lions’ consolation goal.
Skubala’s charges will now take on Hungary, Belarus and host nation Italy in the main round between 22-27 October.
The top two sides from this group will make it through to the elite round which will take place between 28 January and 2 February 2020.
Skubala said: “It’s a great achievement for Futsal and for this England team.
“I am immensely proud of all the players and staff who have worked so hard to get through this stage.
“The way in which we dominated the ball was the best I have seen so far from this group.
“However, we know Italy is going to be another level but an excited for the challenge.”