Italy goalkeeper Stefano Mammarella has no doubts regarding the present he would like to receive for his 30th birthday on Sunday when the Azzurri face Azerbaijan with a UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 quarter-final spot at stake.
Roberto Menichelli's side lost their opening game in Antwerp 3-2 to Slovenia and now need to beat Azerbaijan, 7-6 winners against the same opponents in the second Group C game, by at least two goals to avoid a surprising early exit. "I will definitely ask my team-mates for a good gift on Sunday," Mammarella told UEFA.com. "Not conceding goals and scoring at least a couple would certainly be the best gift of all."
Winner of the adidas Golden Glove as best goalkeeper of the tournament when he helped Italy to third place at the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup, Mammarella had a slow start to these finals as he conceded what appeared to be an avoidable goal against Slovenia. "No, honestly I'm not that used to conceding goals like that one," he admitted.
"In a competition like this, with so many people watching, it's not funny, even if it can happen. It was a shot almost from the halfway line, the ball was coming towards me and I was sure I'd take it, but my foot got somehow stuck on the ground and the ball went in.
"I was very glad for Menichelli's nice words after the game," he continued. "He is a great person and is always backing us in difficult moments, but it's fair to admit your mistakes when you make them. We went 1-0 down and we had to change our game plan, so it was a significant mistake. However, you always have to stand up and retake the old path."
A part-time baker at his parents' shop in Chieti when free from futsal, Mammarella is determined to atone for the defeat by Slovenia. "We did not take the pitch with the right mentality," the Marina CSA player said. "We could not explain what happened. We talked a lot to each other after the game, but we decided that we can just raise our heads and earn the result we need on Sunday. We want to prove that the game against Slovenia was just a bad incident."
Certainly the shot-stopper is fully aware that it will not be an easy task to beat Azerbaijan by two goals. "We will take the pitch thinking that we are 1-0 down and that we have to come from behind. They play very well, especially with the flying goalkeeper. They know each other very well because they mostly play for the same club [Araz Naxçivan].
"We will have to be focused until the final whistle because they proved they can always come back. We are Italy, a great team, but now it's time to prove it on the pitch."
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