UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 did not begin well for Italy or their captain Gabriel Lima. But he took inspiration from the country's footballers 32 years earlier and ended up lifting the trophy.
When the tournament started in Antwerp, Spain were looking for a fifth straight title having taken the honours every time since Italy won at home in 2003. A 3-2 opening defeat by outsiders Slovenia made it look unlikely that the Azzurri would break that run, but 11 days later they were champions.
They were given a hand by Azerbaijan dramatically beating Slovenia 7-6 in the second Group C game. That meant Italy were able to win the section, thrashing Azerbaijan 7-0, and avoid Spain in the quarter-finals.
Still, Croatia – who had held Spain 3-3 – were not easy opponents in the last eight, and Lima himself needed to find form despite having scored against Azerbaijan. The skipper showed his all-round ability by troubling Croatia's defence and marshalling Italy's own rearguard in a 2-1 victory.
The 26-year-old Lima, who took over as Italy captain from Marcio Forte in 2012, was now into his stride and struck within seconds in the semi-final against Portugal, later making one and adding another in a 4-3 success. Then, facing Spain's last-four conquerors Russia for the title, Lima again scored first for Italy and created one for Murilo as the Azzurri triumphed 3-1 – the skipper himself receiving the Bronze Ball as second top scorer.
"I improved my performances in the final stages of the tournament," Lima told UEFA.com. "I understood my team-mates needed me to play better and I did."
As for the team themselves, he added: "The history of Italian football is like this. Just think about the 1982 FIFA World Cup when Italy started with three draws and then became champions. By playing with the right fighting spirit and heart we can reach any objective."
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