Portugal hope for first Italy win
Monday, 6 February 2012
The last two UEFA European Futsal Championship runners-up meet in the last quarter-final on Tuesday, when Italy hope to maintain their unbeaten record against fellow contenders Portugal.
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One of the last two UEFA European Futsal Championship runners-up will be out of the competition on Tuesday when Italy take on Portugal in the last quarter-final at Arena Zagreb.
Portugal, second in 2010, won Group D in the capital by beating Azerbaijan 4-1 and Serbia 2-1 to top probably the toughest section. Italy, the 2003 champions and runners-up in Portugal four years later, have had to travel from Split after being pipped to Group C supremacy by Russia on goal difference following a 2-2 draw, as well as 3-1 defeat of Turkey.
Both of these teams went through 2011 unbeaten, twice drawing 1-1 with each other in October in Portugal, whose last loss was to Italy a year earlier in Brazil. In fact, the Azzurri have not been defeated by Portugal in 13 meetings but, tellingly, seven of those games finished level.
"We already knew, no matter which opponents we would face in the quarter-finals of this European Championship, that our task would be very, very difficult," Portugal coach Jorge Braz said. "Tuesday's match will be very tough but we like games like that. Those who are ambitious − and that's the case with us − enjoy overcoming these kind of difficulties.
"We know everything there is to know about the characteristics and quality of the Italian squad, but we are much more focused on our tasks and on what we have to do on the pitch in order to succeed and go through to the semi-finals."
Italy disappointingly fell at this stage two years ago in Hungary in a penalty shoot-out to the Czech Republic, but showed their ability this time in coming back from two down against Russia, Gabriel Lima making an immediate impact in the second half having been rested for the first to avoid a ban-earning booking. "Now we have Portugal, they are more rested than us but we are fired up because the draw against Russia was almost like a victory," Lima said.
"Portugal are a little more technical and less physical than Russia, they have quicker moves. But from the games we have played we have come to understand a lot about their marking, therefore in my opinion it will be a great match in which we have a good chance."
Spain will await Italy or Portugal on Thursday here in the semi-finals.