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Switzerland and Italy reach semi-finals

Alessio Frainetti and Emmanuel Zurlo
Italy's Alessio Frainetti of Italy (20) celebrates with Emmanuel Zurlo at the Beach Arena. Harry Engels/Getty Images
Swiss scored five in nine minutes to reach the semis, while Italy win 5-4

Favourites Switzerland and Italy gave their fans a torrid time on Friday afternoon before both teams squeaked through their final group matches to progress to the Baku 2015 Beach Soccer semi-finals.

Switzerland produced the comeback of the tournament so far to snatch a 5-4 victory over Ukraine.

After 20 minutes, the world's third-ranked team were 4-0 down in the Group A winner-takes-all match. A close-range finish from Samuel Lutz finally got the Swiss on the board before a second goal just before the end of the second period gave the favourites critical momentum.

Within six minutes of the restart Switzerland had scored three more times to nose ahead.

Despite twice hitting the bar late – one a piledriver from goalkeeper Vitali Sydorenko – and playing the final 85 seconds with a one-man advantage, Ukraine could not find the equaliser to send the game into extra time.

"Nothing is impossible," said captain Dejan Stankovic. "We showed some character. This is simply a typical Swiss mentality to never give up."

In the first match of the afternoon, Italy were also forced to come from behind to secure their spot in Saturday's semi-finals with a nervy 5-4 victory over Hungary.

Italy, who knew a win in normal or extra time would guarantee them a semi-final spot no matter the result of the later Group B clash between Russia and Spain, took just 19 seconds to take the lead through Gabriele Gori.

With the world no.21-ranked Hungarians having only the slimmest of mathematical chances of reaching the final four at kickoff, it looked like the Italians were set for a stroll to victory.

But with just 45 seconds left in a lethargic opening period, Viktor Fekete finally shook his teammates awake with a thunderous bicycle kick to make it 1-1.

Two goals in a minute then helped Hungary to a 3-1 lead in the second period, and the Italians were in danger of wasting their outstanding 6-4 victory over the world no.1-ranked Russians on Thursday.

Only Gori's second goal of the match – and fourth of the tournament – with under three minutes left slowed Italian heart rates and sent them through to the final four.

"In the third period, I gave them a push, and scoring a goal brought a pinch of confidence to end this great game," said Italy coach Massimiliano Esposito.


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