Italy edges out Serbia and takes a step closer to playing in Europe’s top division of national team football.
The stands at Teghil Stadium in Lignano Sabbiadoro (UD) were finally full and when the Italian national anthem rang out you could feel the tension and emotion in the air. A pre-game appearance by the recently crowned U15 Flag Football European Champions garnered thunderous applause from the crowd, electrifying the atmosphere in celebration of the incredible achievement by Coach Mauro Mondin’s ‘bad boys’, the same name earned by the Blue Team this evening.
The stakes were high: a spot in Group A and a return to the top division of national team football in Europe.
The two teams sized each other up for a few minutes until Italy took the initiative and put the first points on the scoreboard with a field goal by Stefano Di Tunisi from the 33-yard line: 3-0.
The reaction from Serbia was unsuccessful but the defense thwarted the throw and prevented the Italians’ attack from gaining any ground. The first quarter ended with a bloody sack on David Lukić by Simone Bernardoni, which was repeated by Bernardoni and Diego Gennaro two plays later.
The evenly matched game was broken by a bomb by Zahradka to Marco Podavitte who dove to catch the ball in spectacular style and took Italy to within a yard of the goal line. The touchdown came from another fantastic pass by the Italian QB to Tommaso Finadri right in the endzone. Di Tunisi was on form and the scoreboard read 10-0 to Italy!
Just before the half-time break Serbia found time to try for a field goal from the 40-yard line, but it missed and the score stayed at 10-0.
The half-time show by Federcheer and Team BCM, from Malcontenta (VE), followed by Team Da Beat Fusion from Rosà (VI) offered a stunning display of fantastic cheerleading routines that the crowds loved.
Italy came out with guns blazing after the break and had the crowd on its feet within minutes thanks to another magnificent catch, this time by Michele Marchini. Di Tunisi converted the point making it 17-0.
Serbia was stunned and struggling to understand how to contain a Blue Team that was dominating the running and aerial game. The defensive unit tightened its ranks again, shattering any ambitions Serbia might have had with decisive plays and quickly forced changes of possession. Serbia had another attempt at a field goal at the close of the third quarter, but it went wide of the mark.
The Italians suffered a blow towards the end as Federico Forlai was disqualified for targeting. Coach Giuliano’s men started to lose focus and the lack of concentration kept the officials busy throwing flags, allowing the Serbs to get perilously close to the Italian goal line for the first time. A series of plays by QB David Lukić took Serbia over for their first touchdown of the night while the extra point kicked by Darko Klasan took the zero off the scoreboard: 17-7.
Serbia was starting to look dangerous; Lukić seemed to have stepped it up a gear and literally carried the entire team with him. The offense ground on and with three minutes to go till the end of the match the Italian defense no longer seemed to be able to contain the momentum built by the Serbs. A touchdown from a perfect throw by Filip Nedelijković into the end-zone opened up the game to dangerous effect for the Italians. This time the kick hit the mark and the PAT took the score to 17-14. The crowd went wild and the Italians turned to the legs of Cotrone to gain valuable yardage and run down the clock. With only a minute was left in the match the crowd in Teghil Stadium cheered on the Blue home team t0 victory as the Italian offense ran out the clock.
All Italy’s hard work and preparation over the past three years has paid off and resulted in a well-earned win at this European Championship Qualifying Tournament. The Italians still have to get past Denmark next year, but for the moment that spot in the European Championship is one step closer.
The City of Lignano Sabbiadoro has been a perfect partner for this memorable event and was well represented at the award ceremony by Deputy Mayor Vico Meroi who handed the second place trophy to Serbia.
President IFAF Europe Goran Nisavic awarded to top trophy to the Italians and brought these three days of incredible football to a close.
MVP of the game: LOUIS COTRONE (RB Italy)
MVP of the tournament: LUKE ZAHRADKA (QB Italy)