Mambo Italiana

11 Jun

“Buongiorno indeed !” Italian Americans may have said when they awoke on Sunday morning! The Azzure started off their 2019 World Cup campaign with what many considered a surprising win over the Matildas to start Group C action.

While it is true that this is the 7th World Cup appearance for Australia and they do have arguably one of the best players in the world in Sam Kerr, Australia had a rough few months before the tournament began. In January, coach Alen Stajcic was fired after two confidential surveys and conversations with staff and players revealed disturbing player welfare and workplace issues. Due to confidentiality concerns, we will probably never learn exactly what happened and while the players appear to be happier under current coach Milicic, this type of stress is never good for a team coming into the world cup.

Meanwhile, the Azzure have had a twenty year absence from the World Cup, last appearing in the 1999 tournament but have come off a nine game winning streak. They have also never lost an opening match in their World Cup history.

Both teams came out strong but nine minutes in Barbara Bonansea introduced herself with goal that was ruled offsides thanks to VAR technology.

Australia had their own near chance with a good chance from Rasso after a deflected ball from Van Engmond but it went wide. However, Sam Kerr was able to score first after drawing a foul on Juventus player Sara Gama and earned a penalty. Laura Giuliani saved the penalty but Sam Kerr was able to capitalize and score her first World Cup goal.

Both goal keepers were forced to make some great saves. Williams saved a close range ball from Girelli and Giuliani had a good save after a great strike from Lagarzo.

The second half saw a lot of activity for the Italian keeper but a defensive error by Polkinghorne gave Bonansea a great opportunity and she scored in the 56th minute.

DeVanna entered the match around the hour mark. She was active but had a suspected handball in the box ruled off by VAR and a yellow card after a studs up challenge. She couldn’t lift the level of play for the Australians nor answer the runs by Bergamaschi and Girelli. Substitute Sabatino had her goal ruled off side in the 81 minute.

The last five minutes of play were intense but it was in the last minute of stoppage time that Cernoia’s corner found the head of Bonansea who nodded it into the lower right corner for the last minute winner.

This will be a wake up call for the Matildas who need to solve some of their defensive problems and keep Sam Kerr in the game. They meet Brazil on Thursday while the Italians will see the Reggae Girlz of Jamaica on Friday.

In a lighter note, some viewers may have noticed some similarities to some past Australian-Italian World Cup meetings.

Stade du Hainault, Valenciennes, France
Attendance: 15,380

Referees: Melissa Borjas (HON), Shirley Perello (HON) , Felisha Mariscal (USA), Ekaterina Kororleva (USA)

Lineups:

AUS: Wiliams, Catley, Kennedy, Polkinghorne, Carpenter, Yallop (Kellond-Knight, 83’), E. Van Egmond, Logarzo (DeVanna, 60’) ,Rasso (Gorry, 70’), Foord, Kerr (Captain)

ITA: Giuliani, Bergamaschi (Giacinti 77’), Gama (Captain), Linari, Guagni, Galli (Bartoli, 46’) , Giugliano, Cernoia, Mauro (Sabatino 59’), Girelli, Bonansea

– ForzaSusan

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