Russia battle back to qualify
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Russian supporters were out in full force for this evening’s match against Italy, sporting a five to one ratio of flags in the stands, but it was Paolo Palmacci that gave his side the early lead via a fortuitous deflection off of his back. Roberto Pasquali came close with dual ensuing efforts in response to near misses from Russia, who did not quite seem their usual, focused selves. Dmitry Shishin, though, sent in a rocket of a direct-kick as the first period wound down, but it was easily handled.

Pasquale Carotenuto had a chance as the second period got underway, but his direct-kick took a severe bounce and sailed well over the bar. Spada did well to smother a rebound that was almost turned past him, but took a knock in the process. Both sides began to pick up the pace, battling hard for the next important goal. And finally it came, with Ilya Leonov sending a first-touch volley home, after Anton Shkarin had looped the ball directly into his path. Alexey Makarov then struck woodwork as the Russians turned up the heat.

As Russia smacked in the go-ahead goal and then another, their supporters came alive. Carotenuto then drove his free-kick well over the bar and the Italians came unglued. From there, it was a matter of defensive hustle and pace on the ball that secured the 3-1 win for Russia.

Italy face Costa Rica tomorrow, while Russia will take on a reinvigorated Argentina side that showed no mercy today against Costa Rica.