Such a shame for Italy! The Azzurri Futsal team did all they could against current World and European Champions Spain, but in the end the Furia Roja proved to be too strong in the Euro 2007 Futsal UEFA Championship final game. For those of you who are wondering, FUTSAL is an indoor version of football (soccer) whose name is derived from the Portuguese futebol de salão and the Spanish fútbol sala/de salón, a.k.a. ‘indoor football’.
It is decidedly a Spanish curse the Azzurri are under: just like in the 2004 World Cup, the clash between Italy and Spain turned to the advantage of the Iberians. In the end a deserved result for a team which, perhaps, was better able to deal with difficult key moments of the match. Italy, contrary to their performance in the tournament so far, committed a few mistakes and was immediately punished by the Spaniards, who kept a tight lock on their own goal thanks to a near perfect performance of goalkeeper Luis Amado Carballo.
Futsal Rules in a nutshell
|â€¢ Games are played on a rectangular pitch approximately 40m long and 20m wide. Playing surface is usually made of wood or artificial material (flat, smooth, non-abrasive).|
|â€¢ Duration of the match is two periods of 20 minutes, with a 10-15 min. half-time interval. Clock is considered “out of play” (that is, time is stopped every time the ball is out of play for a kick-in, free-kick, corner-kick etc.). Teams are entitled to a one-minute time-out in each half.|
|â€¢ Matches are played 5 vs. 5 (including the goalkeeper). Team roster includes 14 players, with unlimited substitutions allowed.|
|â€¢ Kick-ins are taken instead of throw-ins, and must be taken within 4 seconds of the player taking possession of the ball.|
|â€¢ Fouls & free-kicks: for the first 5 accumulated fouls recorded against either team in each half, the players of the opposing team may form a wall to defend a free-kick. Beginning with the 6th accumulated foul recorded against either team in each half, the defending team’s players may not form a wall to defend a free kick, and all the other players (except the kicker) must remain BEHIND the ball (i.e. behind an imaginary line that is level with the ball and parallel to the goal line). No player may cross this imaginary line until the ball has been struck and starts to move.|
For the final game, Italian coach Nuccorini chose to leave out Montovanelli and Jubanski and started with 5-man squad including Feller in goal, and Pellegrini, Forte, Bertoni, and Morgado as field players. On the other end, Venancio Lopez picked Luis Amado, Alvaro, Kike, Andreu and Marcelo.
The Italians started the match with an aggressive tone, but despite the Azzurri’s clearly offensive intentions, the Spaniards were dictating the pace. The game was being fought on every front, perhaps too intensely which led to some hard defensive challenges for either side. Daniel and Torras started the dance of shooting attempts, and found the prompt reply of Italy’s Adriano Foglia and Nando Grana (the latter attempting, and almost succeeding, to surprise the keeper with an audacious 30m long-ranger). 6 minutes into the game, Fabiano saved Daniel’s close-range finish, as the match seemed to develop into an open contention.
Eventually though, Spain activated what they do best, namely their one-touch passing show, and broke through the Azzurri defenses: from Marcelo to Borja to Alvaro, the Spanish forward got rid of Bertoni twice in repeated succession and delivered an inch-perfect cross for the winning header of Marcelo. 1-0 Spain.
Conceding only their 2nd goal in the entire tournament, the Azzurri’s pride was a bit shaken, and the Italians immediately came back to the charge. Bertoni armed his long-range blast, then Grana exploited a good pass by Foglia to create some space, but his finish was off the post and wide. Spain replied in the 15’00 with Alvaro (elected man of the match at the end) with a shot that sent some shivers down Feller’s spine. The Azzurri kept pushing, forcing their opponents to feel under pressure and commit fouls: by minute 18’39” it was Spain’s 5th. Moments later a dubious challenge on Morgado wasn’t sanctioned by the referee, which could have meant Spain’s 6th allowing Italy a free shot at goal (as per Futsal rules, see above). The half ended on a 1-0 scoreline with Spain holding tight onto their lead.
In the 2nd half, one would have expected Italy to come back full steam ahead, eager to find an equalizer. Instead, the Azzurri defense went to sleep and allowed Alvaro to slip through onto goal at min. 21’59”. Feller’s challenge saved a certain goal, but on the rebound the defense was once again too static and allowed Daniel a relatively simple tap-in finish. 2-0 Spain.
For the Azzurri it was undoubtedly very hard blow to endure, because up to that point they had been clinging onto the game and had way more shots than their opponents. However doubts began to rise in the Italy’s mind, and Nuccorini’s men were now forced to take risks in order to multiply their presence in offence. And who says risks says exposing yourself to counters, and at min. 26’52” it was curtains down for the Azzurri: stealing the ball from Bacaro, Kike managed a perfect line pass to Marcelo, who then had acres of space to slide the ball across to captain Javi RodrÃguez for the 3-0 tally.
In Futsal, having to come back from 3 goals behind is a situation which usually results in teams choosing to play with an outfield keeper (what’s there to lose, right?), a rule to which Italy was no exception. In fact, goalkeeper Feller was so much of an “added value” for the Azzurri striking force that in min. 29’49” his 15m shot found a very slight deflection by a defender, and forced Spanish colleague Luis Amado to miss the ball. 3-1.
Potentially, that could have been the start of a great come-back for Italy, especially because in min. 13’32” coach Nuccorini decided to substitute Feller with Grana as a field player/moving keeper and insert the guys with the best shots: Assis, Foglia, Morgado and Bacaro. However, this was too much of an experienced Spain to falter under pressure: the Spaniards remained well-organized in defense, defending tight in block and leaving absolutely no space to their opponents. In fact, they even had the chance to make the score worse for the Italians, counter-attacks being their most dangerous weapon.
Grana made a brilliant save on Eseverri, Luis Amado imitated him on the other end parrying Grana’s shot, and then later Eseverri blasted another sitting chance with an open net over the bar. It was one of the final scoring opportunities of the match, as the ref called full time crowning Spain European Champions for the 3rd time since the competition debut in 1999. The Azzurri can nevertheless be proud to have played an excellent tournament. Better luck awaits them perhaps in 2008 in Brazil, for the FIFA Futsal World Championship.
UEFA Futsal Tournament History
FIFA introduced Futsal as a new discipline in 1988 and Brazil were crowned as the first FIFA Futsal World Cup winners in January 1989. Futsal was rapidly gaining popularity in Europe and the number of Futsal-playing countries increased considerably during the 1990s.
This enthusiasm in Europe was reflected on the pitch and UEFA staged its first European Futsal tournament in Córdoba, Spain, in January 1996. It was won by the hosts in some style and, after three European teams had reached the semi-finals of the World Cup staged later that year, UEFA’s Executive Committee decided, in April 1997, to introduce a full-scale UEFA European Futsal Championship.
The UEFA European Futsal Championship was first held in Granada, Spain in 1999 with Russia running out the first winners in a dramatic final against the hosts. The match finished 3-3 before Russia prevailed in a shoot-out, Konstantin Eremenko converting the winning spot-kick. Spain would make up for that disappointment by winning the Championship in 2001 in Moscow, defeating hosts Russia in the last four before seeing off Ukraine in the final.
Ukraine were back in the final in 2003, but again they lost, this time to hosts Italy, Vinicius Bacaro scoring the only goal of the game. Spain, FIFA Futsal World Cup winners in 2004, reclaimed the European crown in 2005, Andrea and Cogorro scoring in a 2-1 win as old rivals Russia were defeated in the final.
If you wish to know more about the game of FUTSAL, the Wikipedia entry is an excellent source of information with many external links. You can also visit the UEFA Futsal Championship tournament’s official website.
Marco Pantanella writes for the mCalcio blog