FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004

FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004

21 November - 5 December

FIFA Futsal World Championship 2004

Spain 2-1 Italy: Lozano's men prove teamwork is the key

It was tight, but in the end Spain retained their title at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004. Two second half goals by Kike and the outstanding Marcelo were enough to hand Javier Lozano his second world crown.

"To win a final you must first lose one," a smiling Spanish coach said afterwards. "We lost one in 1996 and have now won in 2000 and 2004. We were struggling in the first few games but come the semi-final and the final and we are at our best. We deserved it today - we showed how much we wanted it."

In the lead-up to the game, the coaches had tried a touch of psychological warfare - Lozano and Nuccorini both claiming the other team was the favourite for the title. It was possible to make a case for either - proof indeed that the final was too close to call. Spain as World Champions had the experience. Italy, remember, hadn't even qualified for Guatemala 2000, but had beaten their opponents in their previous two meetings - in the 2003 European Championship semi-finals and in the second round here in Chinese Taipei.

Italy kicked off, but it was their opponents who took the initiative in the early stages - Orol and Javi Rodriguez bringing comfortable saves from Alexandre Feller. In fact for most of the first half Spain had control of the game, their imperious teamwork pressing the Italians back towards their own goal.

Marcelo and Salvatore Zaffiro were carrying out their own private battle, but when Marcelo did get on the ball, he and Javi Rodriguez were able to carve out dangerous openings. Kike almost scored twice for the Spaniards inside thirty seconds - first Feller turned away his volley from Orol's corner, then he hit the bar after the Italian keeper had pushed away Orol's shot.
As the half wore on, Nuccorini's men at last began to gain a foothold. Adriano Foglia cracked in a drive which Luis Amado tipped around the post, Vinicius Bacaro's drive looked to arrowing into the corner before Julio's intervention and Edgar Bertoni blasted a right foot shot which Luis Amado did well to keep out.

The deadlock was broken just three minutes into the second half - Orol's free-kick turned past Feller by Kike (1-0, 24'). Italy had to press forward and Foglia began to get on the ball. Italy won a succession of corners which they blasted mostly straight at Javi Rodriguez - one particularly painful blow causing him to be substituted.

But it was Spain who scored again, doubling their lead with a goal of subtlety. Andreu slipped the ball through to Marcelo inside the area. Flicking the ball up with his left he created enough space to volley around Feller (2-0, 30').

The Italians became increasingly desperate, first Feller began to push into Spain's half, then they removed him and played Bacaro in the keeper's jersey. Bertoni very nearly reduced the arrears sliding the ball into the side-netting and himself into the far post from Montovaneli's cross.
With just 36 seconds to go, Sandro Zanetti flicked in Bertoni's cross to set up a frantic finale (2-1, 40). The Azzurri desperately tried to find a way past Luis Amado but slowly the last seconds of the tournament ticked by. The Spanish held out to prove themselves the world's best futsal team in 2004.

Italy coach Alessandro Nuccorini praised his players after the game: "I wrote on the dressing room wall, 'You are fantastic, you should be proud of yourselves. Thank you for everything'. We played beautifully throughout the tournament, but today fatigue caught up with us. Spain deserved to win they were the better team today."

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