Italy opened their 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup with a tense win over Iran, who finished third in the Asian qualifying tournament in Muscat. After regular time ended 6-6, the Europeans edged the affair 5-4 in a penalty shootout (the second of the day), which means they only get two points rather than the three they would have earned had they won in regular time.
After an uninspiring first period, in which both sides managed to get on the scoresheet, the game developed into an end-to-end and enticing affair, with the Iranians keeping hold of the lead for most of the game and the Italians chasing doggedly.
The hosts, whose best finish at a Beach Soccer World Cup came at Marseille 2008 where they finished runners-up, managed to take their first lead with just over seven minutes to go in the third and final period. The crucial goal came from the sizzling left foot of Franco Palma. However, Iran struck back with the seconds ticking away through Farid Boulokbashi.
Then, after a goalless extra-time period, penalties were required to separate the sides. The Italians scored all of their kicks and the Iranians scored their first four, only to lose out in the fifth and final try. Moslem Mesigar slammed his shot far too hard and over the crossbar to spark off wild celebrations in the Italian camp. The hosts now move into a two-way tie at the top of Group A alongside African outfit Senegal, who also won through in their match thanks to a penalty shootout.
Group A will be in action again on Saturday 3 September when Iran meet Switzerland and Senegal take on Italy in a top-of-the-table clash.