European-Russia win beach soccer to claim final gold of Games

By Tom Hayward

BAKU, June 28 (Reuters) - Russia won gold in the beach soccer final against Italy on Sunday to bring the curtain down on the inaugural European Games in Azerbaijan.

Russia, ranked number one in the world, were heavily tipped before the event having won the 2011 and 2013 World Cups and ran out 3-2 winners in a exciting final to cap five days of spectacular action on the sands of Baku.

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Russia led 3-0 and were cruising but had to withstand a furious late Italian rally to claim the final gold available in the Azeri capital.

One of four non-Olympic events among 20 sports at the continental games, beach soccer wowed spectators with spectacular goals, acrobatic flicks and stunning tricks.

Portugal claimed bronze with a thrilling 6-5 victory against Switzerland earlier on Sunday.

"I am feeling good but not 100 percent because my first thoughts are still on the gold medal," Portugal's Nuno Belchior told reporters at the European Games Park adjacent to the Caspian seashore.

"Yesterday (2-1 semi-final defeat to Russia) was one of the best performances from us for two or three years, we just had no luck.

"But I think Russia are now afraid of Portugal. This is very good for the world cup (which Portugal host in July). Our confidence is good." (Reporting by Tom Hayward; editing by Toby Davis)

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