Roberto Menichelli and Stefano Mammarella were glad Italy showed their mettle in a tight 2-1 quarter-final defeat of Croatia, whose keeper Ivo Jukić held his hands up for a decisive error.
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Roberto Menichelli, Italy coach
We made it. I think it's normal to be up against it in a quarter-final of the European championship against a great team like Croatia. They have very good players and a great coach. I want to congratulate Mato [Stanković] – his side are well organised and he did a great job. It was difficult for us physically because just two days ago we had a tough game against Azerbaijan so Croatia were certainly fresher than us.
I told my players that they were very good today. We were prepared for a game similar to the one against Slovenia [a 3-2 defeat]. We knew we were facing a team able to close space down and dangerous on counterattacks. The worst mistake we could have made was to give them chances on the counter. We were very good in limiting those. We could have killed the game off but I'm happy because when you are up against it but still stay on your feet, it means you are in good form.
We wanted to confirm ourselves among the best teams in Europe. We are among the best again and this is important for us because it means we always rise to the occasion in big tournaments like this.
Stefano Mammarella, Italy goalkeeper
It was a great relief [when Croatia hit the post at the death] because there were a few seconds left and conceding would have been a bad blow, especially because we just had a good chance to kill the game, when Vampeta failed to reach a ball that was just too long for him. When I saw that ball hitting the post I immediately thought about the game against Croatia two years ago [when Italy finished third by beating Croatia 3-1].
You know you have to struggle when you play a do-or-die game, a European championship quarter-final. If you take a two-goal lead, like what happened against Azerbaijan, everything is easier because your opponents have to open up. But Croatia never gave us space. They are a very good team, who always manage to defend deep – they are aggressive on the ball and hit well on the counter.
[The past games against semi-final opponents Portugal] are all great memories – great games. I think we have faced them four or five times since I started playing for the national team and it has always been a nice contest – it was always fun to play against them and it will be very exciting again. Ricardinho is absolutely the number one, but they also have Cardinal in fantastic form.
Mato Stanković, Croatia coach
What can I say? It was a very close match. Neither ourselves not Italy played at their usual standard, but it was still a very interesting game. That's life – this time we couldn't score with a flying goalkeeper, though we created some chances. Italy are a great team and I wish them luck in the rest of the tournament.
We have proved ourselves to be a very good team. That is important for Croatia – we are a very small country, we don't have the strongest national league, but we showed the world a good standard of futsal, and that is very important for us. Step by step, we are going up the UEFA rankings and maybe with a better ranking we might get an easier draw – we will see in the future. But we have only been going seriously for three or four years, we have the youngest team here. We were the youngest two years ago, now we are even younger.
Ivo Jukić, Croatia goalkeeper & captain
We played a very good game. In the second half we had a lot of chances, hit the woodwork twice, but had no luck and with the individual mistakes we made it is impossible to beat a team like Italy. The biggest one was my mistake to let in the second. It is something you cannot do against Italy and it maybe cost us a place in the semi-finals.
We had a very, very good tournament – we played very good futsal, but we are not happy about this result. To an outsider, it might have seemed that Italy were big favourites, but we knew we could compete with them. We knew that we could win, so we are very disappointed that it didn't happen.
Franko Jelovčić, Croatia goalscorer
Like my captain said, we made two big individuals mistakes. It was an easy goal to allow Italy to regain the lead. He didn't know where the ball was and made a mistake – that's futsal. I am happy with the second half – we played very well, hit the woodwork twice, and with a little bit of luck we would have scored.
It was unbelievable [when Tihomir Novak hit the post with three seconds left]. I was thinking, could we do it again… It doesn't happen every day.
[For my goal] the ball came to me, I got away from my marker and then it happened – it only takes one second. I scored, it got us back into the game, but then we conceded the second.
With a little bit more experience we will be a very good team. We have to train and not make these kinds of mistakes. That is how results will come. I think we improve every day, and I hope in the next tournament we can go further.