Argentina confirmed their excellent form on Monday afternoon with a 3-1 defeat of Italy to seal top spot in Group D of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006. The reverse completed a disappointing tournament for the downcast Azzurri, who return home without a single point to their name.
"We have achieved our first target, which was to reach the next round," said a contented Francisco Petrasso. "Our sights are now on objective number two - to secure a top-four finish. As for Italy, although I wasn't surprised at how well they played today, it is hard to believe they're out. I saw them in Portugal and they looked very strong."
The fact that both sides already knew their destiny prior to kick-off drained much of the excitement from what had promised to be one of the picks of the group ties. "It will be hard to motivate my players for the last game," commented Italy coach Massimo Agostini mournfully in the build-up. In the early stages, it certainly looked as if he had failed in that task, with Federico Andrade putting the South Americans ahead with a diving header just one minute in.
Although Roberto Pasquali and Gianni Fruzzetti tried manfully to lift Italian morale, it was all to no avail. With the Argentines keen to maintain their unblemished record, it came as no surprise when Andrade tapped home after a fine team move to double their lead in the second period.
"They just let us play," explained Andrade afterwards. "You could tell they weren't up for it, and that gave us even more confidence on the ball. As for the goals, well it doesn't matter who gets them so long as we win."
Both sides seemed content to go through the motions in the final period, although Pasquali roused himself to rattle Marcelo Salgueiro's left-hand post before the in-form Santiago Lopez Hilaire underlined his newly acquired status as a goalscoring defender with his side's third of the afternoon.
Paolo Palmacci's late goal provided little in the way of consolation for a despondent Agostini. "Three games, three defeats," he lamented. "We played horribly and that's the only explanation there is. As the coach I take the blame, but tomorrow I'll just pick myself up and start again. I'm going to bring in lots of new players and try to do better in the future."
Referees: Antonio Buaiz (BRA), Renato de Carlos (BRA), Carlos Frazao (POR)