RIO DE JANEIRO (October 2, 2008) – Six unanswered goals from Italy handed the U.S. National Futsal Team a tough defeat at the FIFA Futsal World Cup from the Maracanazinho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Despite taking the lead in the first half, Keith Tozer's side was unable to hold on to the lead, and eventually the quality of the Italy side proved to be too much for the U.S. Mathematically there is still a chance of qualification for the next round, and the U.S. takes the court again on Saturday, Oct. 4 when they clash with Thailand. Kickoff from Rio de Janeiro is set for 9:30 a.m. ET, and the game can be seen live on ESPN360.com or followed via the MNT Blog.
“I can't fault the guys' effort; it was much better than we had in the first game,” said Tozer. “We played with passion, heart and did all the things we talked about. Credit goes to Italy though because they're a great team. We had the 1-0 lead but we gave up the ball in the middle for the goal and then they took advantage of a two-on-one. It set us back and gave them energy. That was a huge turning point and we just couldn't get back up the ladder."
After a performance on Tuesday where they were admittedly nervous and hesitant, the U.S. began the game against Italy confident and ready to play. The introduction of Andy Rosenband to the lineup, following his return from a holdover suspension he picked upduring qualifying, did much to inject energy into the U.S. side.
In the fifth minute, an outlet pass from goalkeeper Jeff Richey released midfielder Ptah Myers. Through on goal, Myers was brought down cynically by an Italian challenge, for which there was bizarrely no booking. Retribution would come from the restart though. Chile Farias took a shot that was deflected and Rosenband emerged at the far post to poke the ball past the wrong-footed Italian goalkeeper Alexandre Feller.
One goal was hardly going to decide the match, and going behind immediately ignited the Italians. Known for their tacit commitment to defense in the outdoor game, the Italian futsal team could not be more different. Their ball movement and fancy dribbling, particularly that of Adriano Foglia, excited the crowd and within minutes they were level.
In the eighth minute Saad Assis capitalized on an errant U.S. touch and played in Foglia who easily put the ball under the scrambling Richey to level the score.
Three minutes later, Italy took the lead, with the Azzurri again taking advantage of a U.S. giveaway. Assis was the architect once more, drawing the defense and playing Sandro Zanetti in the area for the easy finish.
The U.S. went into halftime knowing they would have to muster a team effort to overturn the scoreline, and early in the second half, they looked like they could have a chance. After some good buildup, midfielder Matthew Stewart found forward Brett Wiesner alone in the Italy penalty area, but his snap shot was turned away by the impressive Feller.
“In the second half we said 'we have to push guys forward,’” said Tozer. “We wanted to create more movement and we wanted to get guys down to the other end. I thought we played really well at times and we had some good opportunities.”
Defender Joe Hammes' shot was blocked well by a sliding Italian fullback and Feller was again at his best when he kept out U.S. captain, Pat Morris, in the 30th minute.
Minutes after, the U.S. were left to rue their missed chances as Patrick Nora extended Italy's lead. Grana played a short corner, catching the U.S. by surprise and Nora didn't think twice before hammering it at the U.S. goal. An unfortunate deflection off Wiesner wrongfooted Richey and the ball spun by the U.S. goalkeeper at the near post.
Foul trouble began to catch up with the U.S., though the Italians strangely remained out of the referees' notebooks. Six fouls sent Grana to the spot for a ten meter kick and he pounded it home in the 36th minute.
Just one minute later, Italy put the game out of reach, with Bertoni firing home at the near post to extend the lead to 5-1. There was still time in the end for Assis to add one more goal from the ten meter spot.
Despite the loss, there is still much to play for in Group B and the possibility of points in the next two games give the U.S. hope of qualifying for the next round.
"Anything can happen, and we're going to get ready for Thailand like we would any other team,” said Tozer. “We want to feel confident going into the game, and we'll prepare as hard as we can to be ready on Saturday."
The U.S. faces Thailand on Saturday, Oct. 4, with kickoff scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET. The game can be seen live on ESPN360.com. The MNT Blog will also be providing live text updates from the Maracanazinho. In other Group B action, Portugal kicked off their participation at the 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup with a 3-2 victory against Paraguay.
-- U.S. National Futsal Team Game Report --
Match-up: USA vs. Italy
Date: October 2, 2008
Competition: FIFA Futsal World Cup – Group B
Venue: Maracanãzinho – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. BRT / 11:30 a.m. ET
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
ITA 2 4 6
USA – Andy Rosenband (unassisted) 5th minute.
ITA – Adriano Foglia (Saad Assis) 8.
ITA – Sandro Zanetti (Saad Assis) 11.
ITA – Patrick Nora (Grana) 32.
ITA – Grana (Accumulated Fouls) 36.
ITA – Edgar Bertoni (Adriano Foglia) 37.
ITA – Saad Assis (Accumulated Fouls) 40.
USA: 12-Jeff Richey; 6-Andy Rosenband, 7-Ptah Myers, 13-Pat Morris, 14-Brett Wiesner,
Subs: 2-Joe Hammes, 3-Mike Apple, 8-Chile Farias, 9-Andrew Jacobson, 10-Sandre Naumoski, 11-Matthew Stewart
Subs not used: 1-Nick Vorberg
Head Coach: Keith Tozer
ITA: 1-Alexandre Feller; 4-Jocimar Jubanski, 11-Morgado, 13-Sandro Zanetti, 14-Patrick Nora
Subs: 2-Grana (capt.), 3-Pellegrini, 6-Edgar Bertoni, 8-Saad Assis, 9-Fabiano, 10-Adriano Foglia,
Subs not used: 12-Farina
Head Coach: Alessandro Nuccorini
Stats Summary: USA / ITA
Shots 10 / 43
Shots on Goal 6 / 24
Saves 18 / 5
Corner Kicks 4 / 12
Fouls 11/ 4
USA – Andy Rosenband 7th minute.
USA – Chile Farias 29.
USA – Andrew Jacobson 29.
USA – Joe Hammes 33.
USA – Mike Apple 33.
Referee: Tals Goulart (BRA)
2nd Referee: Hector Rojas (PER)
3rd Referee: Amitesh Behari (FIJ)
Timekeeper: Nurdin Bukuev (KGZ)
Group B Standings
Italy 1, Thailand 0
Paraguay 5, USA 0
Portugal 3, Paraguay 2
USA 1, Italy 6
Thailand vs. USA, 9:30 a.m. ET
Italy vs. Portgual, 11:30 a.m. ET
Portugal vs. USA, 9:30 a.m. ET
Thailand vs. Paraguay, 11:30 a.m. ET
Italy vs. Paraguay ,11:30 a.m. ET
Portugal vs. Thailand, 11:30 a.m. ET
For a full schedule of the 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup, including all four groups, click here.