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02 Sep 2015
Opening day in Pescara filled with goals and upsets
Italy and Morocco close out the first day with big wins and start the Olympic event on a high note
Italy flexes muscles and rumbles to win
The 11-1 victory for Italy over visiting Tunisia was as complete a match as you could hope for from any team. Being the host certainly helped but also the systematic scoring, sound defense, and stunning saves made for an amazing all-around victory for the European side. The Eagles of Carthage were not able to contain Gori, the talismanic goal scorer for Italy, and without his goals, the match would have been infinitely different. Tunisia buckled down in the second and third periods and did not give up nearly as much space or goals. The win keeps Italy in charge of their own destiny for a gold medal, but they cannot let up against Algeria on Thurdsay night. Tunisia must build upon their second and third period performances and use that knowledge in their next match, on Thursday against Lebanon.
Italy came into the match as a heavy favourite, despite falling short in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015 and the Euro Beach Soccer Superfinal Pärnu 2015, due in part to their excellent talent level and experience but also because the way they got to and qualified for the above mentioned events. As the saying goes, heavy is the head that wears the crown, but for the Azzurri, the idea of being favoured is common and does not add any pressure to their team, so their playing confident and scoring twice early from Gori, put them in a dangerous, for the other teams, and confident playing style. One player in particular is spectacular to watch even on a bad day but when he is playing confident, it is out-of-this worldy, and Gori showed that with his four first period goals and his Italian needed no more help than that as they took the 4-0 lead into the second period. Gori mayu have slowed down his scoring ways but the Italians did not as they used goals from Zurlo and Ramacciotti to build a six goal cushion, which turned into seven when Gori modestly scored only one goal in the frame, putting Italy up 7-0 going into the final break.
Italy was ready to score more goals and it looked like they would when Palazzolo scored the eight Italian goal in the first minute of the closing frame. Things shifted again though when Tunisia netted their first goal late in the frame. The good vibes quickly disappeared for the visitors as Italy responded with a Di Palma goal, putting the score at 9-1. Italy wanted to keep the shut out, and with that gone, they focused defensively on making sure Tunisia would not get any more goals and the tactics more than worked, with the final score settling at 11-1 for the Italians.
Goals: 0-1: Gori, min. 9 (1); 0-2: Gori, min. 8 (1); 0-3: Gori, min. 3 (1); 0-4: Gori, min. 2 (1); 0-5: Zurlo, min. 8 (2); 0-6: Ramacciotti, min. 4 (2); 0-7: Gori, min. 1 (2); 0-8: Palazzolo, min. 11 (3); 1-8: Taieb, min. 5 (3); 1-9: Di Palma, min, 5 (3); 1-10: Mezni (o.g.), min. 2 (3); 1-11: Zurlo, min. 1 (3).
Morocco opens up offense and never looks back
The 7-2 win for Morocco over Malta was very thorough and a test in mental toughness for both sides. Morocco went up first but they were sitting back when the Knights of Malta hit the back of the onion back for an equalizing score. It was at that point that the African side turns things up and put their car into a higher gear. The fortitude was there, along with the offense and defense to carry them far in this Olympic event. The win keeps Morocco on pace with fellow Group B day 1 winners, Egypt, going into their Thursday showdown with Turkey. Malta knew how intense a side Morocco has and their opening energy was evidence but they must maintain that emotion for a full 36 minutes, starting with their next match, on Thursday against Egypt.
Whenever Morocco plays there are bound to be goals and the opening minutes of the match showed exactly how each team was going to play, free and loose. There was also plenty of physical play that demonstrated how tough each side was and how much they wanted to win. Morocco scored first but El Hadaoui wanted more of the sweet goals he had tasted. He got his wish after Malta scored the equalizer, he netted his second goal, putting the score at 2-1, still early in the period. The Lions of the Atlas added to their tally on an impressive right-footed strike from Boulakouaba in the closing minutes the period and the Moroccans went into the first break up 3-1. Malta had some miraculous saves in the period, particularly near the end when a flurry of tough shots were all stopped, but not before the Moroccans added to their lead, putting the score at 5-1 going into the final frame.
Morocco looked comfortable with their big advantage and employed a safer and more conservative game plan as the game progressed, but that does not mean they did not have their chances, however going into the middle of the frame, the score sat at 5-1, still for Morocco. Malta did not stop playing tough and in the Moroccans’ faces but Morocco and their advantage were too much to overcome, especially after the Lions of the Atlas scored the late final period goals to officially stomp out a comeback attempt and the final score ended being 7-2 for Morocco.
Goals: 0-1: El Hadaoui, min. 10 (1); 1-1: G. Frendo, min. 9 (1); 1-2: El Hadaoui, min. 8 (1); 1-3: Boulakouaba, min. 3 (1); 1-4: Nassim, min. 11 (2); 1-5: Esaadi, min. 5 (2); 1-6: Boulakouaba, min. 2 (3); 1-7: Nassim, min. 2 (3); 2-7: M. Camilleri, min. 0 (3).
France charges to opening win
The 6-2 victory for France over Albania might have been foreshadowed in how the French team played in 2015 in the Euro Beach Soccer League, having qualified for the Division A Superfinal, but Albania did not crumble under the pressure. Yes the French side jumped ahead first, and they continued their stellar defense, holding on to a shut-out for the majority of the day. All the while, Les Bleus were looking for goals and attacking and that game plan proved to be more than enough as they were able to claim the three points. France will hope to continue their push towards a medal against Libya on Thursday. Albania was able to show they can play stout team defense and score but they will need to do more of both against Greece on Thursday.
The French side has many renowned players and they wanted to make a point in the opening minutes of the match. The point? That they could score and would not take their opening match lying down. Les Bleus showed this mentality with their first two goals, one in the opening minute from Marques, and the second coming only minutes later from Basquasie, putting the French up 2-0 going into the middle portion of the frame. Albania could not seem to find their footing and it was the French who added another first period goal, finishing the opening 12 minutes up by a score of 3-0. The Red and Blacks shored up their defense in the middle frame as best they could as they limited the French attacks, but they were still not able to get on the board. When the period ended, France had added one more goal to their lead, which was sitting at 4-0.
Goals were hard to come by for Albania but on the flip side, they were playing much better defense and seemed to have found an identity. No defense can any other team forever and France scored their fifth goal early in the final frame but then it was the Eagles who rattled off two straight goals, their first strikes of the Olympic family event. With the score sitting at 5-2, Albania were scrambling for more goals but they did not seem out of sorts and showed that if you took away one bad period, they would have been in a perfect position to win. When the referees signaled the end of the match, it was the French who had earned the 6-2 win.
Goals: 0-1: Marques, min. 11 (1); 0-2: Basquaise, min. 8 (1); 0-3: Yannick, min. 2 (1); 0-4: Marques, min. 4 (2); 0-5: Lauthe, min. 9 (3); 1-5: Admir, min. 9 (3); 2-5: Blendi, min. 5 (3); 2-6: Barbotti, min. 1 (3).
Lebanon takes control early for big win
The 10-4 win for Lebanon over Algeria started fast and in fact it never slowed down, but it showed how tough an opponent the Lebanese can be. The Algerians showed their fight and heart when they went down early but clawed back and added to the drama. Lebanon scored four times in the first period and then added two more in the second period to make sure they could hold off the inevitable Algerian run. The win in regular time gives Lebanon three points and they will look to further solidify their standing in their next match, on Thursday against Tunisia. Algeria will next face Italy on Thursday, needing a win to look towards a medal.
Lebanon was the more experienced beach soccer side but that did not give them any more sense of pride as anything else as they started the match just as hungry and driven as any other team. The early goals came as the score sat at 3-0 going into the heart of the period. Algeria did not see many early chances against the tight Lebanese defense but just before the period ended, they found the back of the net, however they still looked at three goal deficit, 4-1, going into the first break. The goals were already flowing but in the second period, more and more goals came and in exciting fashion, but with Algeria starting their march back to finding an equalizing, however, Lebanon had their own answers and going into the final minutes of the frame, the score was 6-3 for the Lebanese. The sides wanted more goals but the scoring stopped and the score held at 6-3 for the Cedars of Lebanon going into the final frame.
Lebanon did not want to slow down and they made sure that they did not have a goalless period in their first match, as they struck on a goal from H. Fattal, and the goal pushed the lead to 7-3, with just under six minutes remaining. As the flood gates had already been opened, it was no surprise that the teams did not stop scoring and the goal total ballooned to 14 goals, at 10-4 for Lebanon. Algeria always looked to have a shot a comeback, due to the free-flowing offense but when the final buzzer sounded, it was the Lebanese up by a score of 10-4.
Goals: 1-0: M. Elzein, min. 11 (1); 2-0: M. Choker, min. 8 (1); 3-0: A. Nassered, min. 6 (1); 4-0: A. Nassered, min. 2 (1); 4-1: Karim, min. 1 (1); 5-1: M. Elzein, min. 10 (2); 5-2: Sofiane, min. 6 (2); 6-2: M. Choker, min. 6 (2); 6-3: Sofiane, min. 5 (2); 7-3: H. Fattal, min. 5 (3); 8-3: M. Merhi, min. 4 (3); 9-3: A. Nassered, min. 4 (3); 9-4: Zakaria, min. 4 (3); 10-4: M. Merhi, min. 3 (3).
Egypt not intimidated by Turkey in slim victory
The 3-2 victory for Egypt over Turkey was very sound and showed how great the African continent is becoming at beach soccer. It was Egypt who scored first, looking to take control, but Turkey quickly recovered to tie matters late in the first period. The African side was able to bounce back again and take the lead, for good, and hold off the Turkish squad. The win gives Egypt the leg-up in their group and they still have an excellent opportunity to medal as long as they build on this momentum in their next match on Thursday against Malta. Turkey still has e everything ahead of them, but they will need points in the upcoming game on Thursday against Morocco.
Turkey has spent much of their beach soccer season playing many top-flight teams and not only on the European continent but the Turkish side was not as familiar with the Egyptians and their style of play. The play showed this mentality as both teams were trying to spend the opening minutes figuring the other team out. It was the Pharaohs who hit gold first when they used a strike from Hassan to go up 1-0, just before the midway point in the first period. Turkey weathered that storm and nailed home a shot from Seyit in the final minute of the frame to put the score at 1-1 going into the second period. One goal was scored in the back-and-forth middle frame, and it was from the Egyptians, giving them a slight 2-1 lead going into the final break.
Holding on to a slim lead is much harder than it seems and Egypt was faced with that task as they took to the sand with only 12 minutes up. Turkey could see the finish line and despite being down 2-1, they were confident play and seemed ready to score again but it was Egypt who nailed home the next goal, from Moustafa, and that goal gave them the 3-1 lead and the insurance they so desperately needed. Turkey did not quit and used the second goal from Seyit to draw back to within one goal, but in the end it proved to be too little as Egypt hung on for the 3-2 win.
Goals: 1-0: Hassan, min. 7 (1); 1-1: Seyit, min. 0 (1); 2-1: Salama, min. 10 (2); 3-1: Moustafa, min. 9 (3); 3-2: Seyit, min. 8 (3).
Libya faces Greece head-on and is victorious in opening match
The 3-1 win for Libya over Greece was defensive and tactical battle, especially in the beginning, before the offenses began clicking. It was Libya who notched the first two goals, both in the final minutes of the first frame. The Greeks fought back but Libya had a reply and were able to do just enough to hold off the European side. The victory puts Libya in a great position in the group as Greece is a Division A European side who pas favoured to medal. The Libyans must build on this match for their next game against France on Thursday. Greece is far from done but they must take control early and earn points against Albania on Thursday.
Libya and Greece knew they were in a very tough group and needed to take advantage of every opportunity they saw but things did not work out that easy in the opening minutes of the first period. The Greeks and the Libyans played a very conservative and defensive opening period but that caution led to frustration for not being able to score, however that changed in the last minutes of the frame. Libya scored twice in two minutes to take a solid 2-0 lead over the the Pirate Ship going into the first break. The Mediterranean Knights may not have been satisfied with their Aegean counterparts but it was the Greek side who scored the first goal in the frame, on a strike from Amantadis, putting the score at 2-1 for Libya. The score would not hold for long as the Libyans scored again, making a habit of scoring with under two minutes left in the frame, and the goal from Adel put Libya up 3-1 going into the final period.
Both sides had found their offense in the middle frame but in the last 12 minutes the defenses tightened back up and it became harder and harder to find space and shots. The Greek side wanted at least one more goal to help spark a rally but the Libyans wanted another insurance goal and to make sure that the Greeks did not mount the comeback. As the middle of the frame came and went, it was hard to say which side would score again, both were knocking on the door, but the questions were not answered and when the last whistle sounded, it was Libya who was up by a score of 3-1.
Goals: 0-1: Hani, min. 2 (1); 0-2: Targ, min. 0 (1); 1-2: Amantidis, min. 4 (2); 1-3: Adel, min. 1 (2).
MEDITERRANEAN BEACH GAMES PESCARA 2015
Wednesday, September 3rd
09.00 – Greece 1-3 Libya (Group C)
10.15 – Egypt 3-2 Turkey (Group B)
11.30 – Lebanon 10-4 Algeria (Group A)
12.45 – Albania 2-6 France (Group C)
14.00 - Malta 2-7 Morocco (Group B)
15.15 – Tunisia 1-11 Italy (Group A)
15.00 – Greece vs Albania (Group C)
16.15 – Egypt vs Malta (Group B)
17.30 – Lebanon vs Tunisia (Group A)
18.45 – France vs Libya (Group C)
20.00 – Morocco vs Turkey Republic (Group B)
21.15 – Italy vs Algeria (Group A)