CONIFA EURO 2017 CUP
Result : KKTC (TRNC) 1 PADANIA 1 (After 90 mins, Padania win 3-5 on penalties).
Hosts Northern Cyprus suffered heartache as they were beaten in a penalty shoot out against Italian regional Club Padania.
By Richard Beale………..
CONIFA (The Confederation of Independent Football Association) is the governing body of Non FIFA Affiliated Associations. The TRNC (KKTC) has played host to this competition which has been played over the past week. Unfortunately due to a family illness I have been in England and have missed the qualification stages, however friends who attended some of the games were impressed by the matches, preparations and atmosphere.
The final was held at the giant Ataturk Stadium which has a capacity of 25,000. Disappointingly even though the hosts were in the final, around 3 sides of the ground remained virtually empty. I estimated maybe a crowd of around 5000 were present but they generated a good atmosphere for this match played under floodlights.
Padania were much the sharper team in the first half playing some slick football with some delightful inter passing they looked like a team that had played together for a number of years. The home side were indebted to their goalkeeper Hasan Piro who pulled off a number of fine saves. Padania took the lead in the 24th minute following a quick break which ended with a cross from the left which was headed into the net at the near post by Ersid Pllumbaj. Score 0-1.
KKTC were mainly restricted to long shots as the classy Italians continued to dictate play. The home side were unlucky not to equalise in injury time in the first half when Mustafa crashed a shot from the right onto the top of the crossbar. Half Time : 0-1.
During the break the KKTC Head Coach made 3 substitutions as he was clearly unhappy with his team’s first half performance.
They immediately looked dangerous and had a number of chances at the start of the second half as they took the game to the Italians.
The KKTC deservedly equalised in the 52nd minute when the tall HALIL TURAN headed a perfect Mustafa cross low down past the Padania keeper Murriero. Score: 1-1.
Their momentum was halted however when in the 63rd minute they were reduced to 10 men when Kenan Oshan who had come on as a half time substitute was sent off after a heavy challenge on Danny Magne. Some of the Italian players surrounded the referee imploring him to send off the KKTC player, which was not very sporting.
Despite being reduced to 10 men the home side continued to press forward and push players up-field.The Italians seemed content to hold on for a draw and maybe win the match in a penalty shoot out as the match proceeded into the final 10 minutes. Bravely 10 man KKTC continued and looked like the team most likely to score.
In the 82nd minute following a cross from Mustafa, substitute Firat hit the post with his shot which rebounded to safety for a goal kick.
Then in the 87th minute Halil Turan’s close range effort was brilliantly pushed away for a corner by Murriero. FULL TIME score 1-1.
The Italian Goalkeeper continued playing the hero as in the penalty shoot out he saved 2 of the home side’s penalties whereas Padania did not miss any of theirs.
SUMMING UP : After a poor first half, the KKTC probably deserved to win the match based on their second half performance. Having a player sent off rather harshly they bravely took the fight to the Italian team, and they did not let their country down. All of the squad were players taken from the domestic “Supa League”. On the night there were a number of good performances from certain players, striker Halil was always a handful for the Italian defenders, Mustafa on the right hit the bar, and provided some telling crosses. Man of the Match and the Player of the Tournament, Serhan Önet was outstanding in his defending and leadership.
The TRNC (KKTC) Government, Tourist Board and Football Federation have done a great job in organising, preparing and hosting this tournament. One small criticism I would like to make was that there was no Tournament Programme to list player squads, numbers and history of teams etc. Also no flags, scarves T.Shirts etc, a huge marketing opportunity missed but overall this Tournament has done the TRNC no harm at all.