Russia and Italy gear up for Antwerp final
Friday, 7 February 2014
One of Russia and Italy – the only two teams other than Spain to have won the UEFA Futsal EURO title – will be champions for a second time after they meet at a sold-out Sportpaleis.
Article top media content
One of Russia and Italy – the only two sides other than Spain to have won the UEFA Futsal EURO title – will be champions for a second time after they meet in Saturday's final at Antwerp's sold-out Sportpaleis.
Russia, victors in 1999 on penalties against Spain, finally beat that nation again on Thursday 4-3 in extra time to make their fifth final. Italy overcame Portugal by the same scoreline and are aiming to match their 2003 home success against Ukraine – 1-0 – in the only previous Spain-free decider.
These teams drew their last encounter 2-2 in the 2012 group stage, Italy having defeated Russia for 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup third place and in the UEFA Futsal EURO 2007 semi-finals. Russia coach Sergei Skorovich, welcoming back Pula from suspension and Vladislav Shayakhmetov from illness, said: "There are no favourites in this match.
"Italy have had very strong teams in recent years. They have a great spirit, they are well-organised, they are very competent tactically and have some great individuals. They finished third last time, so I'm not surprised by the fact they are in the final."
With 21 goals in four games, including seven by finals leading scorer Eder Lima, Russia have been exciting to watch, their spectacular strikes including a long-range thunderbolt against Spain from Sergei Sergeev. "The atmosphere in the team is great, but we feel a bit tired as we needed to play ten extra minutes yesterday," he said.
"But we will have to do that again if we need to play extra time tomorrow. [Stefano] Mammarella is one of the greatest goalkeepers in the futsal world, but let's see if he can save the type of shot I produced yesterday."
Italy, for whom around 1,500 fans will travel as part of a crowd of more than 13,000, began with a 3-2 loss to Slovenia but have been excellent in dispatching Azerbaijan (7-0), Croatia (2-1) and Portugal (4-3). Mammarella said: "Obviously we are aware that Russia are a great side, one of the best in the world in recent years. They have great players like Pula, Cirilo, Eder Lima, Gustavo, Sergei [Sergeev]. Playing a final is a dream for us and we will give our all to earn a great result tomorrow."
Coach Roberto Menichelli saw his Azzurri side beaten in the semi-finals of UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 and that year's World Cup, and said: "We are probably now more mature, we worked hard more or less with the same squad for a few years while trying to include a few new faces in our group."
Mammarella added: "Our opener [losing to Slovenia] was crucial for us. We understood that you can lose against any team if you don't play with the right spirit and since then we have always played with the right approach."