20 years since the last time, Italy are back in the Women’s World Cup finals. The side are back after dominating the group with seven wins from as many matches having scored 18 and conceded just two. It was a clearcut result as was tonight’s 3-0 win over Portugal following goals from Cristiana Girelli and Cecilia Salvai before Barbara Bonansea wrapped things up at the end. Above all, it was a collective victory after Milena Bertolini managed to rebuild following the negative experience at the European Championship. With determination, heart and character, the road to qualification began with five goals scored against Moldova and ended with qualification to France 2019.
With the debutant Pipitone in goal, Guagni, Gama, Salvai and Bartoli were selected to play in defence. Galli, Giugliano and Bonansea lined up in midfield with Rosucci, Sabatino and Girelli in attack. It turned out to be a night of celebration and one not to forget. In front of around 6,500 fans at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, Italy didn’t miss their chance to seal qualification. It took just four minutes to go ahead with a magnificent Girelli header from Giugliano’s corner. The Azzurre doubled the lead in the 13th minute from another corner and it was Salvai this time who applied the finish.
Against a Portugal side who they beat 1-0 away, Italy played silky football. Determined and confident, the Azzurre created another two chances before the end of the half without running any risks. The only negative was the injury suffered by Martina Rosucci in the 34th minute who went off for Alice Parisi who was back after a long lay-off of her own.
In the second half, the Azzurre Coach made a change 16 minutes in with Mauro replacing Sabatino. Italy continued to create chances and in the 66th minute Bonansea hit the bar after an excellent counterattack. Nine minutes later, Bonansea looked to catch Morais out at the near post but the Portugal goalkeeper was ready to make the save. It was all Italy at the end and Girelli hit the bar five minutes from time. In stoppage time, the well-deserved third goal with Bonansea finding the net.
The win against Portugal means that nothing is riding on the final group match away against Belgium on 4th September who were the only side before tonight competing with Italy for top spot.
The final whistle sparked celebrations on the pitch and in the stands. “The girls were fantastic,” said an emotional Bertolini. “In the pat nine months, they’ve shown enthusiasm, determination and desire every day in every training session. I’m happy for them, for my colleagues and the whole FIGC who have been working in the past years for a project that has become reality.”
Group 6: Schedule, results and table
15th September: ITALY 5-0 Moldova
19th September: Romania 0-1 ITALY
19th September: Belgium 12-0 Moldova
20th October: Belgium 3-2 Romania
24th October: ITALY 3-0 Romania
24th October: Portugal 0-1 Belgium
24th November: Portugal 8-0 Moldova
28th November: Romania 3-1 Moldova
28th November: Portugal 0-1 ITALY
6th April: Moldova 1-3 ITALY
6th April: Belgium 1-1 Portugal
10th April: ITALY 2-1 Belgium
10th April: Moldova 0-0 Romania
8th June: ITALY 3-0 Portugal
12th June: Romania vs. Portugal
12th June: Moldova vs. Belgium
30th August: Moldova vs. Portugal
31st August: Romania vs. Belgium
4th September: Portugal vs. Romania
4th September: Belgium vs. ITALY
Standings: Italy 21 points (7 games), Belgium 10 (5), Portugal 4 (5), Romania 4 (5), Moldova 1 (6).