- Italy through to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2019
- Sealed their place with a 1-0 win over Ecuador
- Oristanio lit up the match with a 30-yard free-kick
120 seconds that were the difference between victory and defeat – an apt description of the 75th and 76th minutes of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™ last-16 tie between Ecuador and Italy.
The South American team were awarded a penalty with a quarter of an hour to go. Johan Mina had the ball on the spot ready to take it, but referee Chris Beath changed his decision after consulting VAR and gave Italy a goal kick. Mere moments later, there was a free-kick up the other end, 30 yards from goal.
Gaetano Oristanio stepped up and fired the ball inches under the bar, with the ball arcing through the air on its way into the back of the net. “Just before the whistle went for the kick, I decided to have a go,” the beaming midfielder told FIFA.com. “I always do extra work in training to improve my free-kicks.”
“It was an incredibly important goal, but we’ve got to admit that we were pretty lucky that the penalty decision was reversed.”
This was the Inter Milan midfielder’s first goal at this tournament, although he had set up two for his team-mates. In the opening match against Solomon Islands (5-0) he was relegated to the bench, as was the case against Mexico, when he was brought on with around 20 minutes to go and set up the winner in a 2-1 extra-time victory.
In the final group game against Paraguay (1-2) he was promoted to the starting line-up and provided another assist, courtesy of – what else – a free-kick floated into the box, but he was substituted after 55 minutes. And here against Ecuador, he was only brought on for the second half.
He has already made a name for himself throughout Europe for his dead-ball qualities and shots from distance. Last summer, he moved from Atalanta Bergamo to the Inter Milan youth set-up and soon had people sitting up and taking notice.
In the UEFA Youth League, he scored with an inch-perfect free-kick against no less an opponent than Barcelona, having already struck from distance with a 20-metre screamer against Slavia Prague just weeks earlier.
The Azzurrini are now hoping that they will do at least as well here in Brazil as their U-20 counterparts in May and June this year. At the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019™, the Italians made it all the way through to the semis, only to end up out of the medals and in fourth after losing the third-place play-off 1-0 to… Ecuador.
Fourth is also the best finish that the country has had at the U-17 age group (back in 1987 in Canada). Can the current crop top that?
“My goal has set us up with a match against Brazil. The stadium will be packed and they’ll all be behind the home team,” said Oristanio, before adding confidently: “No question, though – we’ve got the talent to beat them and go further.”