Spain and Italy go head to head on Sunday morning in the FIFA Futsal World Championship final in Taipei City.
By Paul Saffer
Having barely caught their breath following Friday's thrilling FIFA Futsal World Championship semi-final victories in Chinese Taipei, arch-rivals Spain and Italy go head to head on Sunday at 9am CET for the title of global champions.
Spain defeated Brazil in the final four years ago in Guatemala to lift the trophy for the first time against the nation that had won all four previous editions. And the Spanish repeated the trick in the 2004 semi-finals in Taipei City, matching their opponents all the way in a 2-2 draw after extra time and overcoming an early setback in the penalty shoot-out to prevail 5-4 in sudden death.
Afterwards reigning European champions Italy defeated their South American counterparts and fellow semi-final debutants Argentina 7-4, Vinicius Bacaro claiming a hat-trick. And while Spain have the experience of having reached two previous finals in this competition - losing in 1996 to Brazil before their subsequent revenge - Italy overcame the world champions 3-2 in the group stage and also beat them in the last four of the 2003 UEFA European Futsal Championship - the only Spanish defeats in a run of 38 internationals since September 2002.
But then Spain can think back to 1996, when they ended Italy's previous best World Championship campaign with a 4-1 win in their decisive second group stage encounter. And defeating Brazil has given them more than enough confidence to be going along with.
'Hard work has paid off'
Goalkeeper Luis Amado, the hero of the match for Spain, said: "We did not lose our concentration at any point and the team's hard work has paid off even though it is clear that Brazil are far superior in terms of individual talent. Now we are thinking ahead to the final. We are buzzing at the thought of meeting Italy because we want to get even for the defeat we suffered against them during the second phase."
'Happiness is double'
Andreu, who opened the scoring and also converted in the shoot-out, added: "If you make the final and added to which, you have just beaten Brazil in the semis, it's not hard to imagine that the satisfaction and happiness is double."
However, there will be a bittersweet feeling for Italy as Andre Vicentini received a red card in the second half and will be suspended for the final. Still, coach Alessandro Nuccorini said: "Our play was of a very high standard tonight. The first half was excellent, the second a little bit crazy, but that's to be expected."
But whatever the result on Sunday, these teams will not have to wait long until their next major meeting as they face off on 17 February in Ostrava in their last group game in the 2005 European Championship finals. And should both emerge from the same pool - as happened in the second stage here - what would be the odds on another Spain v Italy final 75 days after their encounter in Taipei City?