If Italy achieve their ambition of landing the world title on home shores, a sizeable share of the credit should go to Francesco Corosiniti, the Calabria-born wide-man with an eye for goal who is taking part in his third FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. The 27-year-old has already struck three times at Ravenna 2011, netting once against Iran in the opener before firing a fine brace against Switzerland on Monday evening.
The last of the three strikes was arguably the most important, coming just four seconds after Dejan Stankovic had poked in a later leveller for the Helvetians. Corosiniti brought down a lofted pass on the left, wrong-footing his marker in the same movement before arrowing a precise right-footed shot into the near corner.
It was a magical feeling, explained the Italian: "They are crazy moments, it’s difficult to explain," he mused, trying to articulate his emotions in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
It was not the first spectacular goal that Corosiniti has scored at the global showcase. Before bagging the brace that extinguished the Helvetians’ hopes of qualification, the Italian had already written his name into the history of international beach soccer with a double against Solomon Islands at Marseille 2008.
The first, a flick-up and volley from his own half, was named one of the goals of the tournament, although it was easily eclipsed by his goals against Switzerland on home sands. "It was an incredible joy, a unique emotion in front of an exceptional crowd,” he recalled. “I thank everyone, my team-mates, the town, the organisers, it’s all been fantastic."
But as the Azzurri ace revealed, his is a team in which the collective takes precedence over individual achievements: "You’re always looking to score but the team comes before all else. For sure, when you’re the one that gets the winner it’s an indescribable feeling."
Reaching the quarter-finals was our minimum target. Now it doesn’t matter who we meet, we’ll play each match like a final.
Indeed the real secret behind the side’s progress at Ravenna 2011 is its can-do spirit of togetherness and determination, according to Corosiniti. "Perhaps we don’t have the individual flair of Portugal or Brazil but we make up for it with team spirit,” said the winger.
“We are all in it together, we play for each other and we also never let our heads drop. We know how to get back into a match when we go behind, as you saw this evening. Fortunately [Giuseppe] Soria brought us back on level terms at a delicate moment, at the end of the second period when we were under the cosh. I think that was instrumental in our victory."
Level-headedness appears to be another ace up the sleeve of Gli Azzurri, who are spurred on but not overawed by a partisan public that is now beginning to dream big. "As hosts, reaching the quarter-finals was our minimum target,” Corosiniti explained, clearly trying to play down expectations. “We did it by coming top of the table and it was no easy feat, our group was very tough. Now it doesn’t matter who we meet, we’ll play each match like a final and whatever happens, happens, without thinking too far ahead."
Aside from humility, the hosts have demonstrated their ability to grind out wins. Despite not hitting the heights against a stubborn Swiss side, La Nazionale showed their mettle at crucial moments, with players who may not make the headlines but who are nevertheless capable of turning the tide of a match, such as Soria, Paulo Palmacci and Simone Feudi.
Then there is Francesco Corosiniti himself, the wily wingman with a knack for scoring. "On a personal level I feel great, the goal against Iran in the opening game gave me even more belief in my ability,” said the Calabrian. “I’m happy with what I’m doing. I dedicate the goal to my friends back in Calabria, my team-mates and my family."
The Azzurri faithful will be hoping that lightning strikes twice in the quarter-finals against surprise packages El Salvador, who lost to the Italians in the group round at Marseille 2008. Nevertheless the two line-ups will bear little resemblance to those of three years ago and, although the Italians may have side-stepped the big guns, the Salvadorans are not to be underestimated at any cost.
"If they have got this far it means that they’re a good team,” said Corosiniti. “We simply have to play well, better than them, and then we won’t have any problems."