Saturday June 15 2019
Azzurre a rising blue storm

Fresh from utterly destroying Jamaica, the Azzurre are coming together as a force to be reckoned with in this Women’s World Cup, writes Andrea Tallarita.

It's been 13 years since the last time we could say this, but Italy have progressed past the Women’s World Cup group stage, and not by a hair's breadth, but in a pomp of flaming colours. Supercharged by their hard-fought win against Australia, the Azzurre went on a rampage in their second game and demolished Jamaica 5-0.

The delight of winning aside, the game was remarkable for feeling so anachronistic. It was a bit like watching a World Cup game from the 90s, or even the 80s, before football had gone truly global and the barriers between giants and minnows had been eroded.

Jamaica were always going to be a sacrificial lamb in Group C. Their team simply lacked the resources, having been dismantled in 2010 and put back together only thanks to the patronage of Cedella Marley, daughter of none other than music legend Bob Marley.

The aptly-named Reggae Girlz' lack of ingenuity cost them, as Allyson Swaby first fouled Barbara Bonansea in the box, and then Sydney Schneider vanified her own glorious save by stepping off the line too early, causing the penalty to be taken again.

The Azzurre enjoyed some luck in that first goal, and perhaps a touch in the second too as the ball rebounded off Cristiana Girelli's hip and into the net, but they were certainly out on a hunt. The tactics were more offensive than against Australia and they pursued an aggressive game throughout.

Shorn of tactical sophistication, the Jamaicans had few options other than to look for individual initiatives, and these were fairly comfortably snuffed out by an Italian defence which was once again almost impeccable.

The only time when the Azzurre seemed a little troubled was around the 60th, when the superior athleticism of the Jamaicans (and, let this be noted, their remarkable spirit even when 3-0 down) was beginning to take a toll on the European midfield. Bertolini used all three of her subs to relieve the pressure, and this proved effective, particularly in the person of Aurora Galli.

Galli had been considerably less productive against the Australians, but meeting a team that gave her wider spaces, she became a new force. Her first goal was a stunning drive from outside the box, while her second was even more beautiful, with a dash into the penalty area and a casual feint a la Roberto Baggio to saunter past the ‘keeper.

Aside from earning qualification, Italy emerge after only two games with no less than three different heroes. Bonansea knocked down Australia, Girelli scored a hat-trick and Galli netted two masterpieces. Add captain and defensive rock Sara Gama, and this team boasts an impressive elite guard.

The fact that all four of these footballers play for Juventus shows just how far ahead that club's system is by comparison with their Serie A competitors, and what a difference an advance of a few years in preparation can make in a league that is still relatively young.

I say this not to put down the other clubs, but to highlight Italy's potential. If the Azzurre can do so well when Juventus invests heavily in the sport, what will happen when the other clubs catch up and start bringing in the next big names? There are already such players as Fiorentina's Alia Guagni, Milan's Manuela Giugliano and Roma's Elisa Bartoli playing for the Azzurre, but we certainly have space for more.

In any case, these are considerations for another day. Right now, a national team that started as an underdog is now preparing itself for the Last 16 with a game to spare (against an embittered Brazil on Tuesday). Their tactical and mental integrity once the competition starts getting whittled down will face much greater tests, but for now they play with something Italians hadn't seen in football for far too long, and that is joy.

Have your say...
Hey give them credit...they deserve respect least they qualified for the / a World Cup... womens or not, they’re trying hard and doing well.
They’re doin the country proud too.
on the 18th June, 2019 at 5:20am
Great to see the women's team playing freely with their own style and not inhibited by all the junk that the men's teams normally carry with them. Talent is there. They may not win it but they are making everyone proud and off to a great start.
on the 15th June, 2019 at 5:11pm
Well played Italy and Juventus for investing in the Azzurre.
Italy can only improve in time,and i agree other teams in Italy need to do what Juve have done.

Forza Italy and Juve.
on the 15th June, 2019 at 9:35am
The girls r doing awesome, there's a real old itinerary feel to the play, similar to 2006 in terms of players and movement on the pitch, on not saing they r gona win but maybe they have an outside chance. Still looking forward to seeing rosucci play, she reminds me of an early pirlo.
on the 15th June, 2019 at 7:22am

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