Italy confirmed their staus as one of the favourites for FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004 with a convincing 5-0 win against Japan.

Azzurri coach Alessandro Nuccorini has happy with the goals but paid tribute to his back-line: "Our defence made the difference today. We didn't give the Japanese the opportunities to create chances. We respected Japan before we came on court and we respect them even more now."

Italy, the most impressive side to play at the Linkou Gymnasium so far, began with Alexandre Feller in goal - giving him his first taste of World Championship competition. Nuccorini felt Feller's greater footballing ability and speed around the court compared to the giant Gianfranco Angelini could be useful as a sweeper against the pacey Japanese.

The Azzurri changed their style for this match, playing with less reliance on a pivot striker - Vinicius Bacaro featuring only sporadically and he was not pushed up as far as he had been against the USA.

The Italians took control of the match from the off - taking the lead in only the second minute, Sandro Zanetti drove down the right, feinted inside then went down the line and struck right footed across Hisamitsu Kawahara into the far corner.

It was Zanetti who was the game's major influence. His ability to shift the ball from foot to foot, go either way and retain possession under pressure gave the Italians a springboard. The Japanese pinned their hopes on the man who scored twice in their opener, Kenichiro Kogure, but he was well-shackled by Italian skipper Salvatore Zaffiro. It was a hard night for Kogure - not only was Zaffiro nicking the ball from him, he would follow it up with bellowing exhortations afterwards.

The second goal after seven minutes came after an amazing sequence of passes between Grana, Bacaro and Andre Vicentini - the Italians finally working space around the centre spot for Vicentini to stride forward a crash a long range shot past Kawahara.

The Italians showed better technique throughout and this drained the confidence of the Japanese who had been a potent attacking force against Paraguay.

It was the same story in the second half, controlled possession by the Italians and desperate measures from the Japanese. Montovanelli struck the third and Fabiano the fourth - a cracker on the volley - to give the Italians a comfortable lead.

In a frantic final few minutes, Japan substituted their keeper for Osamu Nambata and threw bodies forward. This left gaps and the Italians made it a nap hand when Zanetti crossed for Montovanelli to score his second.

Japanese coach Sapo was defiant in defeat: "The first time we appeared at the World Championships we were invited. This was the first time we have qualified. I would be angrier if we hadn't played with such commitment for the whole game."