Italy slip past Argentina
© AFP

Two skilled teams worked hard to find an opening as a back and forth, first-period battle produced a handful of opportunities, but no reason for either side to celebrate. In the end, it was Italy who managed to outlast Argentina in a 3-2 win, thanks to an extra-time goal.

Ezequiel Hilaire struck a low shot to open the scoring three minutes into the second period. Paolo Palmacci then equalised for Italy after a sneaky move around his marker.

Santiago Hilaire snapped the go-ahead goal, with the assistance of a helpful bounce, before goalkeeper Simone Del Mestre did well to deflect a long-range effort, as the second period wound down. Italy drew level just thirty seconds into the third period before Facundo Minici of Argentina squandered a chance from close range, as his shot trickled wide of the post.

With five minutes gone in the third period, substitute goalkeeper Stefano Spada made light work of well-taken direct kick to deny Argentina the go-ahead goal. Palmacci had a chance of his own, but sent his direct kick high into the stands.

Moments later Federico Hilaire produced a scare, as his unassuming effort trickled just wide of the near post. And he soon had the ball again, but was denied by Italy’s tower at the back Michele Leghissa.

Italy captian Roberto Pasquali nearly propelled one into the net from long-range, but a series of deflections spared the Argentinians, just moments before Luciano Franceschini was shown a yellow card for a spirited bump. Massimiliano Esposito did his best to convert the ensuing direct kick, but it was well-saved by goalkeeper Marcelo Salgueiro, who turned in an admirable performance for his side on the day.

Leghissa found an opening with a minute left, but again Salgueiro was there. And a corner kick skipped dangerously across the face of Argentina’s goal as the match went into extra-time.

As extra-time began, Italy struck immediately from the kick-off, despite Ezequiel Hilaire’s effort to clear off the line after the ball has slipped past his goalkeeper. Italy lived dangerously in the final moments, but did enough to grab the win, in spite of the urgings of Argentina’s flag-waving fans stationed behind the Italy goal.

On Tuesday, Argentina will play against Costa Rica while Italy shall face Russia.