There were tears of joy and delight on the sand of Alghero on Sunday evening, as the National Beach Soccer Team beat Spain 9-8 on penalties to be crowned European Champions. A title that was last held 13 years ago and one that also comes eight years after their final defeat to Portugal in 2010. Regardless, Italy have remained among the elite of World Beach Soccer, winning the 2015 Mediterranean Games in Pescara and few months after securing a Silver Medal at the first edition of the European Olympic Games in Baku. However, this latest triumph is the peak of their achievements, coming out on top during a final played in front of 1500 fans at the Beach Stadium in Alghero. The past is now behind them – previously runners’ up at the 2008 World Cup in Marseille, while also finishing fourth at the 2015 and 2017 World Cups. Now they are finally European Champions once again.
Italy were unstoppable in Sardinia and ended up victorious in dramatic fashion. First, they beat Belarus thanks to a goal from Dario Ramacciotti 22 seconds from the end. An inspired comeback against reigning champions Russia then saw the Azzurri progress after an extra-time 5-3 win, while Del Duca’s side then overcame Ukraine despite losing a three-goal lead.
Gabriele Gori was the man to seal the win that day with a remarkable four goals, consequently contributing to his seven overall in the competition. He was unable to find the back of the net against Spain, however, Alessio Frainetti and Paolo Palmacci were more successful. Their two strikes were cancelled out by the impressive Llorenc, whose well-taken brace successfully sent the game to extra time and then penalties.
With nerves shook, Chiavaro, Gori, Zurlo, Corosiniti, Frainetti, Palazzolo and Palmacci all stepped up to score for the Italians, while Simone Del Mestre’s final save was what finally secured the historic win.
“It would’ve been down to me to take the final penalty so luckily Simone made the save,” said Dario Ramacciotti. “It’s not easy to find a squad where all the players are so determined to secure a title. As a group of 12, we’ve all played decisive roles in different moments.”
As for Coach Emiliano Del Duca, this amazing achievement comes during just his first year in charge, having previously led Terracina for a number of years: “It’s a dream that you have when you’re a child. The lads were fantastic, and it makes me proud that we were the best team of the tournament. I only asked two things of them, calmness and good football. We demonstrated superior tactical rigour and the lads’ confidence also grew as the tournament progressed.”
Francesco Corosiniti was the man to captain the side during this success, as he highlighted the importance of the group’s harmony and pride: “This group has managed to perform at a high level for a number of years but to actually win is something entirely different. It was the climax of everything after Simone’s save and I can say without a doubt that we deserved this victory after all of the sacrifices that we made.”
One of the goalscorers on Sunday was another Simone – Marinai: “It was the best goal I’ve scored for the National Team. We’ve pursued this title for years and it’s wonderful to share it also with Stefano Spada and Matteo Marrucci, who’re both here in Sardinia and have been with this group for years.”
Once again Gabriele Gori proved that he is one the best Beach Soccer players in the world during this tournament, with his total tally of seven now pushing him up to 199 overall: “This is the most important title of mine with the National Team. We wanted to redeem ourselves following the defeat to Portugal in 2010.” As for his four goals against Ukraine, Gori added: “When I scored in extra time, I looked up and saw that the fans were going crazier than me. It’s an emotion that is difficult to explain.”
The final word falls to the goalkeeping hero Simone Del Mestre, whose diving save helped gift the title to Italy: “I won everything with Sambenedettese, but nothing compares to this. Before the final penalty, I turned towards the stand and I said ‘I’ve got this’. I can’t remember much after the save, but I just remember running like crazy all across the pitch.”
The National Beach Soccer European Champions
Goalkeepers: Andrea Carpita (Urbino Taccola Uliveto Terme), Simone Del Mestre (Pro Gorizia);
Defenders: Alfio Chiavaro (Licata Calcio), Francesco Corosiniti (Sersale Calcio), Dario Ramacciotti;
Midfielders: Michele Di Palma, Alessio Frainetti (Real Terracina), Simone Marinai, Pietro Angelo Palazzolo (Sporting Trecastagni), Paolo Palmacci;
Forwards: Gabriele Gori (Castelnuovo Calcio), Emmanuele Zurlo (Enotria Five Soccer Catanzaro).
Staff – Delegation head: Massimo Agostini; Accompany director: Ferdinando Arcopinto; Coach: Emiliano Del Duca; Secerary: Annamaria Giuliani; Assistant coach: Michele Leghissa; Fitness coach: Paolo La Rocca; Goalkeeping coach: Antonino Nosdeo; Doctor: Giorgio Bruni; Physiotherapist: Enrico Matera.