Third-place matches have a reputation for being entertaining affairs, but they can also be accompanied by a sense of anti-climax for the teams involved. When players have spent an entire tournament dreaming of gold, battling for bronze rarely produces the same surge of adrenalin.
For Italy and Colombia, though, there is evident and genuine enthusiasm for the prospect of fighting it out for a place on the podium. In their case, what is on offer is not consolation for missing out on a match they expected to be involved in, but the chance to cap in style a tournament that can already be declared a success.
Italy, after all, have already met their pre-tournament expectations, while Colombia have greatly exceeded theirs. Los Cafateros even gave Brazil a scare before being edged out by three goals to one, leaving coach Arney Fonnegra to speak with entirely justified pride about his team’s showing.
“I was disappointed by the result, but pleased with the performance of my players, who were able to match for 20 minutes the best team in the world,” he said. “And although we were a bit unlucky, I would rather highlight the great reaction my players showed after conceding an early goal.”
Italy, too, gave as good as they got against Spain in the first half before ultimately succumbing a defeat that had been widely predicted. There was certainly enough cause for encouragement for their coach, Roberto Mennichelli, to strike a cheerful note in his post-match comments to FIFA.com.
“We have done some great things in this Futsal World Cup and I’m very satisfied with the performances of my players,” he said. “Unfortunately, Spain and Brazil just have that little bit extra and that tends to make the difference. I actually thought Russia might be able to cause an upset this time but Spain proved too strong even for them.
“Overall, we’re definitely happy with the way we have played here, and our tournament isn’t over yet. We have this third-place match still to play and, believe me, we want that bronze medal. To go home having won that would be a real achievement. We finished third at the EURO, and doing so again at a World Cup would be an even greater accomplishment.”
Mennichelli knows, however, that success is far from guaranteed against a Colombian side already clutching a number of notable scalps. The South Americans’ success has been built on the brilliance of goalkeeper Juan Lozano and an unashamedly defensive game-plan, and the Italy coach believes he knows exactly what to expect.
“We’ll be facing a team who are a very tight unit, and a team that has defended extremely well throughout the tournament,” he said. “That said, we shouldn’t forget that they also have some talented individual players.”
Fonnegra made a point of giving those players a license to express themselves against the Brazilians, and it led – if not to victory – to the outstanding goal of the semi-finals, scored by Jhonathan Toro. And, like his Italian counterpart, the Colombia coach foresees no problem in getting his players fired up for the challenge of finishing third.
“What will I say to motivate my players, who are sad after losing? That the sun always comes out the next morning,” he said. “The assessment of this tournament is already positive for us, but there is a big difference between finishing third and finishing fourth.
"Now that we are so close to winning a medal, we have to aim to grasp it. Italy are of course a very strong team, but I will tell my players to play with freedom, while also showing the discipline and seriousness that the third-place match deserves.”