Following their brilliant 2-0 victory against Russia, at 18:00 today the Azzurri Futsal team will try to open the doors of Paradise: the road leading to the European title is at its final crossway, and needs one final burst of the gas pedal to reward a team who has collected 18 victories in its last 19 games (the Euro 2007 opening match vs. Portugal ended 0-0). Not only that, the Azzurri have reached the final by conceding only 1 goal in the tournament so far (in the 7-1 victory against Romania). Today at 18:00 hours, in the Pavillhao Multiusos do Gondomar, Italy and Spain will be contending the crown of the 5th Futsal championship. The Azzurri have already won it in 2003, the Furia Roja in 2001 and 2005.
Italy and Spain are probably the strongest teams in the Futsal world at this present time, despite the fact they are both ranked behind Brazil (at 2nd and 3rd spot respectively) in the FIFA Futsal rankings. It promises to be a very exciting match. “They are the strongest team in the world, and they just demonstrated it once again in the semi-final game vs. Portugal” says Italian coach Alessandro Nuccorini. “Only Spain could have managed to pull from 0-2 to 2-2 in the last 5 minutes of the game, showing their spirit in fighting against a home crowd of delirious Portuguese fans“. Meanwhile, Spanish coach José Venancio Lopez claims that “Italy have been the strongest team in the tournament so far. They have only conceded one goal in four games: that says it all about their defence” he told uefa.com. “We know that if we want to win this championship there will be some tough periods. It won’t be easy“.
Among the Azzurri, there are actually 7 players playing in Spain at the moment (Bacaro, Pellegrini, Fabiano, Bertoni, Assi, Zanetti, Farina), in one of the strongest leagues of Europe. It will be a “game-within-a-game” for most of them. “We know each other very well” admits Edgar Bertoni. “I will be playing against 4 of my club teammates on Sunday (note: Luis Amado, Jordi Torras, Daniel, and Andreu, all players of the Interviu Fadesa club). No really, today we have to win at all costs, otherwise I’ll have to endure them in the changing room for God knows how long” concludes Bertoni with a smile.
For Bacaro, the “friend list” contains only 3 players: Juanjo, Alvaro, and Kike, teammates in club team ElPozo Murcia. “They aren’t unbeatable” says the Italian striker. “It’s not like it used to be, now we are on the same technical level“. Whether that is the case or not, the Azzurri also contains players who once participated in La Liga but who then decided to get back to their home country: Grana, Morgado, and Montovanelli. “There is great respect, because we know their strength” says Grana, the Italian captain. “But we also know our own strength. If we play with our trademark fighting spirit and determination, we can do it!“. One other reason to do it, for instance, would be to avenge that World Cup 2004 final which denied the Azzurri the World Champions title. “That match is still in everyone’s mind” concluded coach Nuccorini. “But compared to that time, I see my players in a much more serene state of mind“. A good omen for the future?
Italy and Spain have faced off 26 times in the past: history counts 15 wins for Spain, 9 for Italy, and 2 draws. 75 goals have been scored by the Furia Roja and 59 by the Azzurri. Except for the 2004 World Cup final, recent matches however seem to favor the Italians: 2-1 in the Four Nations 2000, 2-0 in Euro 2003, 3-1 in Euro 2005, and 3-2 in the 2004 World Cup Group Stage.
Here’s the international career of the 14 Azzurri players of Euro 2007:
And for comparison, the best 4 players of Spain:
The 3rd place consolation match between Russia and Portugal will take place at 16:00. Kick-off of the final game between Spain and Italy will be at 18:00 CET. FORZA AZZURRI!!
Note: Special thanks to Gazzetta dello Sport for their final game preview on the UEFA Futsal Championship. To wrap up this report, MATCH HIGHLIGHTS of all the Azzurri matches on their way to the final. Enjoy!
16/11 – Group Stage Game 1 – ITALY 0-0 PORTUGAL
18/11 – Group Stage Game 2 – ITALY 7-1 ROMANIA
.21/11 – Group Stage Game 3 - ITALY 4-0 CZECH REPUBLIC
23/11 – Semi-Finals – ITALY 2-0 RUSSIA