Sunday 25 September 2016, 01:58

Cuzzolino: Argentina will be stronger

There wasn’t much more Argentina could have done in trying to negotiate their way past Ukraine. While a keenly fought encounter, built on the basis of two rock-solid defences, as the game progressed it turned into an onslaught by the Albiceleste.

Shot after shot, chance after chance, they couldn’t find their breakthrough as 40 minutes passed and penalties looked like an inevitability, as Ukraine goalkeeper Ievgen Ivanyak saved 21 shots on target in a row. But, with 90 seconds remaining, a sixth foul gave Argentina the chance to register a 22nd. Into the spotlight stepped Leandro Cuzzolino.

“My mind was totally clear,” he told on the moment when we was faced with the seemingly unbeatable keeper and a penalty from ten metres. With the lottery of spot-kicks the price to pay should he miss, a few choice words in his ear from his comrades in blue and white did the trick.

“I just knew I had to score for my team-mates,” the 29-year-old explained. “They filled me with all the confidence I needed to get the job done and I just couldn’t miss.” The result was exactly as he had hoped, firing low and precisely just inside the right post, finding the chink in Ivanyak’s armour.

“I have to congratulate the goalkeeper,” Cuzzolino graciously said at full time. “He was the best player on the court, he was unbelievable, but I just have to thank God that we were able to get our goal. There’s nothing more to say.”

We will be on top of our game and I believe we will make another step forward during the quarter-finals.

And having slogged, sweated and searched fruitlessly for 48 minutes and 30 seconds, the elation at seeing the net ripple was profound. “I was overwhelmed with emotions when I saw it hit the back of the net. It was like a weight had been lifted from our shoulders the moment it crossed the line.”

Argentina have stuttered at times so far at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016. With unconvincing displays at the back against Solomon Islands and Costa Rica – where they so often excel – the Pescara forward believes that overcoming this task could be the psychological boost to take them forward.

"It was amazing that we hadn’t won the game sooner, as we played so well,” he said, having added a fourth World Cup goal to the three he struck at Thailand 2012 – with reaching the quarter-final against Egypt matching their finish from years ago already. “We could easily have had two or three at the very least.

“But this win is going to do wonders for our confidence, we needed it to know where we stand. With this win we will be stronger, we will be on top of our game and I believe we will make another step forward during the quarter-finals.”

Facing them will be Egypt – extra-time arrivals themselves – having dispatched Italy in similarly late fashion. The pair have met twice before, at Guatemala 2000 and Brazil 2008, with Argentina coming out on top both times. But the question to be answered in Medellin this time around will be whose trajectory towards the semi-finals will be boosted more by their most dramatic of victories.