Final will be another matchup of rivals from Rome
REICHENBACH-STEEGEN, Germany -- Italian boys soccer teams lived la bella vita in Germany this week, crowding out programs from four other countries to claim every available spot in the 2017 DODEA-Europe Division II boys soccer semifinals.
All four of the division’s Italy-based entries advanced to Friday’s elimination round ahead of Bahrain, Spain’s Rota, Netherlands’ AFNORTH and Germany’s Bitburg and Black Forest Academy, transplanting the heated atmosphere of Italian regular-season soccer to the soggy turf of southwest Germany.
Defending champion Marymount edged Aviano 1-0 and American Overseas School of Rome defeated Florence 6-4 in Friday semifinals; the two Roman rivals will meet for the title Saturday at approximately 3 p.m. CET at Kaiserslautern High School.
Marymount 1, Aviano 0: The defending champion Royals kept their annual appointment in the Division II final with a convincing defeat of the fourth-seeded Saints.
Freshman striker Giovanni Taricone deposited the game’s only goal deep into the second half to finally snap a scoreless tie. Taricone said the Royals’ offense “suffered” on the “messed-up” pitch, but they didn’t diverge from the game plan that has brought the school so much success.
“I always do my thing,” Taricone said.
Marymount has been a fixture of the Division II title scene for years. The Royals won four straight European championships from 2011 through 2014 before Bahrain ended its dynasty with a shootout victory in the 2015 title match. Marymount reclaimed its throne emphatically last spring with a 7-0 rout of AFNORTH, and is now a win away from launching a new championship streak.
Aviano reached the semifinals on the strength of a pair of wins Thursday, including a 1-0 defeat of top seed Black Forest Academy. But the Saints were a decided underdog against the Royals, who handed Aviano a 5-0 defeat in the opening weekend of the regular season.
Aviano coach Ian Birch was pleased with his team’s efforts this spring, up to and including Friday.
“I’m very proud of the way the boys played,” Birch said. “They showed a lot.”
AOSR 6, Florence 4: The fifth-seeded Falcons outlasted the No. 7 seed in a high-scoring exchange that was the antithesis of the single-goal slog it followed.
AOSR seized control early with the match’s first three goals, at which point Falcons coach Valerio Aureli allowed that his team came to believe that “the game was over.” But Florence responded to tie the score, prompting AOSR to refocus. A pair of goals by captain Alessandro Ianni restored the Falcons’ shaken confidence.
“We started to believe it again, get more mentally focused,” Aureli said, adding that successful soccer is played “in your head, and in your heart.”
Tommaso Anticolo, Leon Musonda van Otterdijk, Luca Baldestein and Bar Poleg scored a goal apiece for the Falcons.
The semifinal meeting was a rematch of the teams’ April 1 regular-season clash, which Florence won 2-1. AOSR will need to avenge another loss to claim the title; Marymount beat AOSR 2-0 when the teams met April 5.
Sixth-seeded Bahrain, meanwhile, didn’t make it to Germany in time for the first day of the tournament and missed its opportunity to stick around for the last. Florence tied Bahrain 1-1 early Friday in a pool-play finale that was shifted to the same day as the semifinals due to Bahrain’s travel issues and subsequent late arrival.
Florence advanced to the semifinal round ahead of Bahrain thanks to its two victories in pool play to Bahrain’s one.