Italy 'determined' to respond against Azerbaijan
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Italy most probably need to beat Azerbaijan by two to extend their run of never having missed the knockout stage, while their opponents are hoping for less drama than against Slovenia.
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Having never failed to reach at least the quarter-finals of a UEFA Futsal EURO, Italy will most probably set an unwanted first on Sunday if they do not defeat Azerbaijan by at least two goals.
The Azzurri's opening 3-2 loss to Slovenia left Roberto Menichelli's team facing an early exit. However, the prospect of going home before the knockout stage increased when Azerbaijan, trailing 5-2 with less than 11 minutes left, mounted a remarkable comeback to beat Slovenia 7-6.
Consequently, if all three sides finish level on points in Group C, a single-goal win will most likely not be sufficient to prolong the 2003 champions' campaign and would instead send their rivals through to the last eight.
Menichelli, though, is confident he has the requisite character in his squad to retrieve a difficult situation. "We are not facing an easy time, but we must react," he told UEFA.com. "We earned good results in 2012 and 2013, despite trying to renew the squad a little. A good team must react to negative results. We can feel the pressure, but there was pressure even before the first game − we are used to it.
"This squad has proved in the past it can respond to negative results. I remember a game against Portugal in the [2012 FIFA Futsal] World Cup when we won [4-3] after finishing the first half 3-0 down. I know my players; they are eager to do well and are very determined. They have always played as a team and been well-organised. I just hope on Sunday they manage to do what they have always done in the past."
If it is excitement you crave then Azerbaijan are the squad to watch. Beaten 9-8 by Serbia in their last game of the 2012 finals, when they exited with no points, Alesio's charges started this tournament by scoring after 24 seconds. It was only when they utlised Edu as a flying keeper at 5-2 down against Slovenia did the 2010 semi-finalists begin to dictate proceedings.
"We were losing for most of the match; it's too difficult to play in these circumstances," said Alesio. "That's why we didn't show what we can really do. We should work more on defending set pieces because it's bad to concede so many goals from these situations."
As dramatic as Edu's last-minute winner was for the Lotto Arena crowd, Alesio would prefer it if he did not have to deploy the little No6 in such a role. "Italy will have seen our match against Slovenia and noticed how good we are while playing with a flying goalkeeper," he said. "We are ready to use this trick in the next match too, but it's much better if we don't need to."