By Mike Pearson, News staff
Soccer fans at Stoney Creek’s Azzurri Sport Club Cafe will have to wait until Tuesday to see if their team advances to the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup.
Dozens of soccer fans were on the edge of their seats Friday afternoon, hoping for a win to secure a place in the next round. The crowd was waiting to erupt, but a goal by Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz one minute before halftime left fans subdued.
Fans gasped with anticipation when Mario Balotelli had a clear shot at goal from close range, but missed the mark. It was the closest Italy would come to a goal, despite a steady push in the second half.
Azzurri Club owner-operator Sal Vastano said the the venue has been packed for each of Italy’s World Cup matches. Fans jockeyed for a prime television viewing area while enjoying a cold beer and the club’s special home made Italian prosciutto sandwiches.
A big game coupled with a sunny Friday afternoon proved to be a big draw.
“All of Italy unites for the World Cup,” said Vastano.
While many pundits picked Italy to win the game over the Central American side, Elvis Mizzau said the surprising play of the Costa Ricans shouldn’t come as a shock.
“Costa Rica is a good team,” he said. “There’s no sense of entitlement there.”
Angelo Lucci, a former coach with Saltfleet Soccer, was hoping and yearning for an Italian equalizer. Unfortunately for him and the other fans, it never came.
“They have to come back,” he said at halftime. “They cannot rely on the next game.”
Lucci was disappointed by Balotelli’s first half miss and also wasn’t impressed by the play of Thiago Motta, who plays as midfielder in France for Paris Saint-Germain.
“I’m not an expert, but I can tell who’s working and who’s not working.”
Moments later, Motta was taken out of the game for the second half.
Despite Friday’s defeat, Italy can still claim a spot in the Round of 16 if they can earn at least a draw on Tuesday against Uruguay.