Italy exhausted a courageous effort from Solomon Islands to win 7-4 in what proved a fitting curtain-raiser to Marseille 2008.
Paolo Palmacci shone for the Europeans, while Gibson Hosea’s brace kept the Bilikiki Boys in contention before he was sent off.
The Italians made an explosive start, scoring twice inside the first 71 seconds courtesy of Palmacci and Simone Feudi. James Naka halved the deficit, but Francesco Corosoniti’s thunderous volley and a Giusepe Soria strike sent the Azzurri in 4-1 up at the first break. It was 6-4 by the end of the second period, Roberto Pasquali and Giuseppe Condorelli on target for the Italians.
The final 12 minutes proved tight, with and own goal completing the scoring and ensured that Italy went straight to the top of Group A.
Solomon Islands goalscorer James Naka was resolute in defeat.
"It was a very hard game. Although we lost I’m not too disappointed, because Italy are a really good team. It was a great honour to play in the World Cup, and I was really proud to represent my country and my island. It’s our ambition to reach the second round and we still believe we can do this."
Italian player Diego Maradona – son of the World Cup winning Argentinian legend – was wrought with emotion after the final whistle.
"This was a very special day for me. I was so emotional to represent Italy, it was very important to me to do this for my mother. I’m still learning beach soccer and I enjoyed today very much, but the most important thing is that Italy win. My dream is for an Italy-Argentina final."
In the groups other match Portugal cruised to an 8-2 win over El Salvador
FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup – Marseille 2008 Group B Standings
Italy (ITA) Statistics Solomon Islands (SOL)
0 Shots 0
26 Shots on goal 11
7 Goals 4
5 Fouls Committed 9
9 Fouls Suffered 4
7 Corner kicks 4
8 Free kicks 4
1 / 1 Penalty Kicks (Goals/Shots) 0 / 0
2 Overheads 0
0 Own goals 1
1 Yellow cards 0
0 Second yellow card and red card 1
0 Red Cards 0
0 Actual playing time 0
50% Possession (%) 50%
Photos courtesy of FIFA Media.