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Italy see off Croatia challenge

Italy 2-1 Croatia
Sergio Romano and Fortino scored either side of Franko Jelovčić's stunning equaliser to set up a semi-final between Italy and Portugal.

Italy see off Croatia challenge
Italy see off Croatia challenge ©UEFA.com

Italy will face Portugal in the UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 semi-finals on Thursday after seeing off the challenge of Croatia.

Having conceded almost immediately to Sergio Romano, Croatia levelled with Franko Jelovčić's stunning solo goal, but Fortino soon restored a lead Italy were never to lose.

Italy could not have wished for a better start, Romano beating Ivo Jukić from close range after the keeper had denied both him and Gabriel Lima. Scoring early was the key to Italy defeating Azerbaijan 7-0 on Sunday, but Croatia, who had Dario Marinović fit after injury, conceded first in their 3-3 draws with Spain and the Czech Republic, and nearly let in another as Romano's shot went across the face of goal.

Croatia's Tihomir Novak, a team-mate of Italy's Fortino and Lima at ASD Asti C/5, missed the target in similar style, but the equaliser came in the seventh minute as one of the revelations of the finals, Jelovčić, received the ball on the left, brilliantly jinked his way past the defence and Stefano Mammarella, then rolled his shot from a tight angle in off the far post.

However, Italy soon responded when Fortino diverted Vampeta's kick-in through the legs of Jukić. The goalkeeper did deny Fortino from point-blank range after a corner, and the open nature of the game continued, typical of Croatia's style all tournament.

The Azzurri played sensible possession futsal after the break, though from distance Lima made Jukić tip over. Croatia took ten minutes to come into the half, Marinović testing Mammarella from distance. Jelovčić came even closer, hitting the inside of the post and Mammarella denied Novak as Croatia pressed.

Fortino then hit the bar, and that was the cue for Matija Capar to make his now traditional appearance as flying goalkeeper. Mammarella got down to a Jelovčić strike, and Marinović shot wide, but unlike in Croatia's two group games, a late equaliser was beyond even Capar, while with just three seconds left Novak, to his despair, smashed a shot against the post.