After eight years, Italy are finally back in the final of a Beach Soccer European Championship. Three wins from three games helped the Azzurri secure their spot in the final, overcoming reigning champions Russia and two tough teams in Belarus and Ukraine. Their route to the final was full of drama, including a late goal against Russia and extra-time success both of their other two matches. The Beach Stadium in Alghero will host the Azzurri’s final against Spain on Sunday, with the match set to kick off at 17:45 CEST. Having already qualified for the 2019 European Games in Minsk, a win now would secure only their second-ever continental title, 13 years after their first and only European trophy.
In what was their third and final group game during at the Euro Beach Soccer League Superfinal, Del Duca’s side dominated against the Ukrainians, but the match still went to extra-time. It was then down to the usual Gabriele Gori to fire his team to success, as he scored a total of four goals to bring his tournament tally up to seven.
Full of mixed emotions after the match, Coach Emiliano Del Duca said: “We paid the mental and physical price for the game against Russia. However, the team were great even today. We are happy but we haven’t achieved anything yet.”
It was a thrilling encounter on Saturday, played out in front of 1500 fans at the Beach Stadium. The first goal came just before the end of the first period, as Gori fired in a spectacular overhead kick before Zurlo then made it 2-0 thanks to a penalty. It was then Gabriele Gori once again, as he made it three with a header in the second period. Khyzhniak fired back for the Ukrainians, but Di Palma then scored straight away to keep the Italians three goals in front.
A foul from Palmacci then allowed Khyzhniak to scored his second goal through a penalty, although Italy remained undaunted and scored a fifth through Gori once again not long after.
With a significant lead, Italy thought they had it all wrapped up, however, Ukraine produced a superb comeback to get back to level pegging. A quick-fire brace from Makeiev made it 5-4 before the equaliser was then scored by Glutskyi soon after.
As was the case against Russia, it was then down to extra-time to settle it. Nerves jangled but Gabriele Gori struck his fourth of the game after just 32 seconds, with Italy then successfully holding on to see the game out. When the final whistle was blown everyone could breathe a sigh of relief, as Italy snuck into the final with a chance now to make history.
Italy 6-5 Ukraine (AET) (2-0; 3-2; 0-3; 1-0)
Italy: Carpita, Marinai, Ramacciotti, Corosiniti, Zurlo, Gori, Palmacci, Palazzolo, Frainetti, Di Palma, Del Mestre. All: Del Duca
Ukraine: Nerush, Khyzhniak, Voitok, Makeiev, Pachev, Zeborovskyi, Medvid, Glutskyi, Shcherytsia, Voitenko, Sydorenko. All: Yevhen
Referees: Benchabane (Fra) e Guenther (Ger)
Goals: 10’pt Gori (I), 11’pt rig. Zurlo (I); 3’st Gori (I), 5’st Khyzhniak (U), 7’st Di Palma (I), 11’st Khyzhniak (U), 11’st Gori (I); 5’tt Makeiev (U), 8’tt Makeiev (U), 11’tt rig. Khyzhniak (U); 1’tt Gori (I)
Bookings: Palmacci (I)
The Superfinal Groups
Group 1: Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Azerbaijan
Group 2: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, ITALY
Schedule, results and standings for Group 2
Matchday one (6 September)
Matchday two (7 September)
Belarus-Ukraine 2-1 AET
ITALY-Russia 6-5 AET
Matchday three (8 September)
ITALY-Ukraine 6-5 AET
Standings: ITALY 7 points, Russia 6, Belarus 2, Ukraine 0
Finals (9 September)
7°/8° place – 14:00 CEST Azerbaijan-Ukraine
5°/6° place – 15:15: Switzerland-Belarus
3°/4° place – 16:30: Portugal-Russia
1°/2° place – 17:45: ITALY-Spain