Italy Gets the Job Done and Move onto the Quarterfinals

27 Jun

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows I’m a die-hard Italian fan. The Azzurri and the Azzurre both hold a strong place in my heart. But sometimes even I have to question some of their decisions. Like Tuesday night. The Macarena? Really?

All kidding aside, bad celebrations and all, the Italians played a very straight forward match on Tuesday night against the Chinese and will go on to meet the Netherlands in the Quarterfinals. I couldn’t be happier for them, especially since they are a prime example of what can happen when a national federation invests in both the women and the men’s game.

One more thing before I get into the match itself… Can I just say that Linari is just as enthusiastic as Buffon when it comes to anthem singing?


Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Anyway, onto the match.

Italy started the match with some vigor. Both Bonansea and Giacinti made their presence known very early in the match. Girelli served the ball to both a few times in the early minutes, as if testing to see if Peng was steady on her line. In the 10th minute, Giacinti was able to capitalize and score but she was offside…not by much but the score remained 0-0.

Giacinti tried again after Han misguided the ball into Giacinti’s path but she missed. However, the third chance was a charm and in the 15th minute, she scored and the goal stuck. This too came from a defensive error from the Chinese. Wu gave the ball away to Bartoli and Peng made a great save but the rebound landed right at the feet of Giacinti and this time, she made sure it went home.

There was a bit of a scare soon after the goal when Sara Gama made a high kick to clear the ball and Wang had lowered her head to try to get to the ball and Gama struck her with the studs. Both VAR and the ref decided it was not a foul because Wang’s head was very low but it was pretty scary as Wang could have been badly hurt.

Around the half hour mark, both Li and Gu gave the Italian defense some things to worry about. However, Laura Giuliani continued her consistent strong presence in goal. And speaking of keepers, Shimeng Peng was also a strong presence in goal. She was put to the test quite a few times. Bergamaschi sent the ball in for the right side of the box but Peng stretched out for quite the save.

Both Girelli and Bonansera clearly looked like they were suffering from the high temperatures and the humidity. In a surprise move, Girelli came off for Galli in the 39th minute due to issues related to the heat. Meanwhile, the Chinese started to show some of their strength and endurance with a couple of shots. Wang had a lovely shot that hit the post. However, she was offsides so it wouldn’t have counted if it had gone in. By the end of the half, Italy was leading on the scoreline but the Chinese looked the more fit of the two teams. Italy was losing steam as well as possession and their shots and passes were very sloppy.

Clearly the half did them some good because substitute Galli scored in the 50th minute from distance. However, the Italian defense looked like it was distracted and nearly gave up a goal only a few minutes before Galli’s goal.

Galli tried to add to the score line a few minutes later by sending a ball into Giacinti who went down in the box. The referee looked visibly annoyed that she had to wait for a VAR review when she made her decision that it was not a penalty.

Li and Wang both made some noise near goal but neither was able to convert. As the minutes trickled away, Gama and Linari were both tested by some good play by Han and Li. However, the Chinese attack seemed unable to finish their chances. Many shots were either off target or went over the crossbar. They were clearly stronger than the Italians in the midfield but they just couldn’t make it happen.

With that said both Giugliano and Bartoli had a few good plays at the end of the match that didn’t result in a change of score but showed a bit more life at the end.

The commentary on Fox kept making remarks about waiting for China to open the floodgates if they could score just one goal which was pretty weird. However, the press that Italy had a decisive game would not be completely fair either. Yes, Italy scored twice and China didn’t score at all. True. However, Italy clearly wilted in the heat and were lucky to have Gama and Linari in defense and Giuliani in goal. (However, even Giuliani’s passing left quite a bit to be desired.) China were stronger in the midfield but they just could not convert that play into goals. They will be very disappointed, as they should be, but there is plenty of talent so I’m positive they will be back stronger and more precise than ever.
Italy had better pray for a cool day on Saturday as they meet the Netherlands in the Quarterfinals. Girelli and Bonansea have been wonderful in this tournament but they either need a lot of rest or some chilly days if Italy are going to progress past the Quarterfinals!

Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier, France
Attendance: 17,492
Referees: Edina Alves Batista (BRA), Neuza Back (BRA), Tatiana Sacilotti (BRA) , Laur Fortunato (ARG)
Lineups:
ITA: Giuliani, Guagni, Gama (captain), Linari, Bartoli, Bergamaschi (Mauro,63’) , Giuliano, Cernoia, Giacinti , Girelli (Galli, 39’), Bonansea (Rosucci, 71’)
CHN: Peng, Han, Wu (captain), Lin, Liu Sha., Wang S.(Song, 61’), Zhang, Wang Yan (Yao, 62’), Gu (Li, Y. 46’), Wang Sh., Li Y.

 

– ForzaSusan

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