When Rodolfo Fortino netted Italy's equaliser 46 seconds from time in his side's FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 quarter-final tie against Portugal, the tournament rookie could not hide his delight. With arms outstretched and his mouth wide open, the striker ran towards the team bench to celebrate a stunning comeback with his team-mates.
"When I scored, my head was spinning," the 29-year-old told FIFA.com while watching the subsequent match between Spain and Russia from the stands. "I thought of my family and my team-mates, with whom I've worked so hard for this success."
Fortino's strike handed Italy the momentum in a see-saw encounter, keeping their hopes alive by sending the game into extra time - whereupon they ran out 4-3 victors. It was a remarkable turnaround given the Squadra Azzurra's precarious position, after going 3-0 down to a Ricardinho hat-trick with barely 11 minutes on the clock.
"At half time we looked each other in the eyes and said, 'We weren't ourselves in the first 20 minutes'. We knew we could and had to improve," said Fortino. "We needed to go out there and show our true colours with a good performance. Luckily we were able to do that."
Indeed, after the break coach Roberto Menichelli's team turned on the style to record an impressive comeback. A Saad Assis penalty, followed up by efforts from Gabriel Lima and Fortino, ensured the match went into extra time, setting the stage for Humberto Honorio's dramatic winner.
"It was an extraordinary game. I can't remember playing a match where we were 3-0 down and still managed to turn it around, but that's futsal," said Fortino, whose six goals so far make him Italy's second-top scorer in Thailand. "I think we deserved to reach the semi-finals. We were ecstatic and were hugging each other in the changing rooms. We were all crying tears of joy, it was very emotional."
On Friday, the third-best team at Brazil 2008 go up against European champions Spain. The Iberians were arguably a touch fortunate to beat Russia in a rematch of the UEFA Futsal EURO final, having depended heavily on the heroics of goalkeeper Juanjo in their 3-2 success.
Fortino and Co have learned their lesson from their own last-eight encounter and are now focusing on getting the better of La Roja in the semi-finals. They have a score to settle too, after losing to the Spaniards at the same stage both at the continental championships earlier this year and at Brazil 2008.
"We learned a lot from the Portugal game and in the semis we'll play the same way we did in the second half against Portugal," said Fortino as the conversation concluded. "But It'll be even harder against Spain. I'm expecting a more difficult game than at the EURO. At this stage of the tournament there are no more easy matches. We know that, alongside Brazil, they have the strongest team at the World Cup, and we really respect whay they've achieved."
The compliments will stop once the match gets underway on Friday afternoon in Bangkok's Huamark Indoor Stadium, however, where Fortino and Co will be concentrating solely on reaching the final. And should Italy succeed, more emotional scenes could well be on the cards.