Italy showed just why they are regarded as one of the favourites to claim the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup by outplaying the Qantas Futsalroos with a comprehensive 9-1 victory in their opening Group D match at Nimibutr Stadium in Bangkok.
Even though they were second best on the evening the Qantas Futsalroos can still progress from the group stages if they can raise their game for the matches against Mexico and Argentina to come and there were intermittent signs, brief though they may have been that there is much more to come from this Australian outfit.
The Qantas Futsalroos actually started the brighter of the two sides and had a couple of half-chances in the opening minute as Fernando De Moraes fired just over with a shot on the turn before Captain Greg Giovenali sent a free-kick wide of the Italian goal. Chances thereafter though were sporadic at best for the Qantas Futsalroos with Fernando going close towards the end of the first half but, in truth, it was Italy who made most of the headway.
The Italians really should have taken the lead in the third minute as a slick move drew Peter Spathis in the Qantas Futsalroos goal and left Alex Merlim with an open net. However, under pressure from the retreating Fernando, Merlim somehow managed to hit both posts from three metres out. Shortly after Saad Assis fizzed a shot at goal that Spathis pushed to safety and Gabriel Lima volleyed wide as the pressure intensified.
Rodolfo Fortino should have done much better than sweep a shot against the post with only Spathis to beat in the 10th minute, but he made amends four minutes later as Italy finally made the breakthrough they had been threatening. A passing move tore the Qantas Futsalroos open and Fortino crashed a shot into the top corner of the net from just outside the penalty area.
Seconds later the Azzuri doubled their lead as the Qantas Futsalroos were made to pay for losing possession in the centre of the court and Jairo Dos Santos fed Assis who blasted home. And two become three in the 17th minute as another rapid Italian counter allowed Lima the time and space to slide a shot through the legs of Spathis.
The Qantas Futsalroos tried hard to get back into the contest but was caught on the break again moments before the half-time hooter as a long throw from goalkeeper Stefano Mammarella found Italy skipper Marcio Forte unmarked and he stretched to toe the ball past Spathis and give the Europeans a comfortable 4-0 half-time lead.
There was no let-up for the boys in green and gold in the second stanza either as Italy ruthlessly exposed a mistake by teeing up Sergio Romano who gleefully clipped the ball over Spathis and into the net for goal number five only 57 seconds after the re-start. Assis was next on target as he outlined his World class credentials with a stunning first-time strike from a well-worked corner routine.
Fernando continued to look most likely for the Qantas Futsalroos, seeing a snap-shot deflect wide of goal, But Italy posed much the greater goal threat and were brilliant in their execution every time the ball was turned over. Fortino was wreaking havoc and his pass allowed Humberto Honorio to get in on the act in the 26th minute as another devastating attack ended with a goal before Giuseppe Mentasti added the eighth and Merlim made up for his first half howler by slotting in for 9-0 with just under ten minutes to play.
The Qantas Futsalroos had their reward for persistence seven minutes from time when they opened their goal account at the tournament with a splendidly crafted strike. Giovenali was the architect spotting a run from Danny Ngaluafe behind the Italian defence and chipping a delightful pass into the path of the flying forward. Ngaluafe still had much to do but picked his spot and thumped a first time drive low beyond the reach of Mammarella much to the delight of the majority of the crowd.
And, much to their credit, the Qantas Futsalroos dug deep to hold Italy out for the remainder of the match with goalkeeper Spathis making several heroic saves. The Italians though were worthy winners in the end.
In the other Group D match Argentina defeated Mexico 5-1.
The Qantas Futsalroos will play their next Group D match of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 against Mexico on Monday 5 November (kick-off 5:00pm local, 9:00pm AEDT) and then Argentina in their final group match on Thursday 8 November (kick-off 5:00pm local, 9:00pm AEDT).
All Qantas Futsalroos matches at the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2012 will be broadcast live on SBS Two (see www.sbs.com.au for broadcast details).