Gabriele Gori’s goal scoring prowess would be critical for the Italians as they seek to upstage two-time champions Russia in the semi-finals of the Beach Soccer World Cup tomorrow.
In the other semi-finals, it would be goalkeeper Shingo Terukina that the Japanese would be hoping to negate Portugal, seeking their third world title. Japan with Terukina between the posts, having conceded only 12, the fewest number of goals by any team in the competition.
The Italians have scored 26 goals in the competition with Gori, who leads the tournament top scorers list with 13. Teammate Emmanule Zurlo has eight to his name.
The Italians with two potent goal poachers upfront would be looking to avenge the 1-7 thrashing handed to them by Russia in the final of the European qualifying tournament. The Italian’s best result at the World Cup was their runners-up finish to Brazil in 2008. They were beaten in the semi-finals of the last two World Cup campaigns, including the 2-5 defeat to Russian the third place playoff in 2015.
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Despite their goal scoring prowess, the Russians would again start off as the favourites. After all they had turn te tables on the mighty Brazilians who had stream-rolled past their group opponents with a massive goal tally of 32.
Russia had narrowly progressed from the group stage before knocking out Brazil by showing the same attributes that won them world titles in 2011 and 2013 – tactical discipline in defence combined with ruthless efficiency in attack.
For the semi-final, Russia welcome back from suspension Alexey Makarov and Artur Paporotnyi, making them an even more dangerous proposition.
Italy secured their place in the last four courtesy of a hard earned win over Switzerland, especially considering Gori did not score and came off injured for a long spell of the game.
In spite of that, the Azzurris found a way thanks to the strong performances from the likes of Zurlo and the ever-dependable Simone Del Mestre.
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Japan have never beaten Portugal in their previous three meetings in the competition losing 4-0 in 2005, 2-1 in 2009 and 4-2 in 2015.
But the Asian champions comes into the semi-finals this year brimming with confidence. They are the only semi-finalist still unbeaten and have been notable for their disciplined and balanced play both in attack and defence.
Under captain Ozu Moreira, Japan have won three of their four games by a single goal, and the other one by just two. And while they are the semi-finalists with the fewest goals scored (17), they are also the side with the fewest goals thanks to a big part, Terukina.
Portugal have impressed in Paraguay with their experience and emphatic goal scoring, with seven different players sharing their 24 goals thus far.
At an individual level, Coimbra, Jordan, and twins Be and Leo Martins have all been outstanding, as has Andrade in goal.