Pasquali dares to dream
At 30 years of age and in his third FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, Roberto Pasquali is about to enjoy the highpoint of his career. The Italy captain was all smiles when FIFA.com caught up with him, mere minutes after his team had beaten Spain on penalties to set up a meeting with the mighty Brazil in the final.
"We played very well on Saturday," said Pasquali. "Even better than in our previous matches. We deserved this win, and it feels good that we're getting better and better."
Pasquali was a key figure in his team's victory, getting them back on level terms at 3-3 and then again at 4-4 with less than 90 seconds to go, scoring his second goal straight from a restart.
"To be frank, when Amarelle made it 4-3, I thought the match was over. I didn't even think about trying to score from the restart. And then I got a hold of myself and realised that it was probably our last chance and that I couldn't let the opportunity pass us by," he explained.
Italy's appearance in the final is less of a surprise when you look at the incredible infrastructure that the country has put in place since 2004. Every summer, from June to August, the best beach soccer players from far and wide meet in the Mediterranean country to play in what is the world's only professional championship.
"It's a godsend to be able to play in a competition like that," explained Pasquali, who plays for his hometown club of Terranova Terracina. "It enables us to progress more quickly than all the rest. Getting to the final here is our reward for years of effort and sacrifice."
"Before this tournament we had never managed to get beyond the first round of a World Cup, which shows how good this team is - the best that Italian beach soccer has ever had," said the delighted Nazionale captain.
"In any case I've never played in a team as good as this one. There's no one individual player who is above the rest, no superstar, but all of the players know how to make sacrifices and everyone helps everyone else out. That's the kind of mentality I like."
This team spirit will be just what Italy need when they face the defending champions on Sunday 27 July on the Prado beach, and Pasquali believes his side have every chance. "Even if Brazil are very much the favourites, a certain amount of pressure is unavoidable when you play in a final," he said.
"When you play a match like this, you always set out to win it. The Brazilians are on a higher plane than the rest of us, but several teams have shown that they can be caused real problems, and I know that we can do the same. So why shouldn't we dream a little?"