Valentina Giacinti

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Italy tops China 2-0 to advance to Women’s World Cup quarterfinals

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China proved dangerous in spurts but disorganization at the back allowed Italy to feast and take home a 2-0 win, advancing to the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup. Goals from Valentina Giacinti and substitute Aurora Galli did the business as Italy picked up its first-ever knockout stage win.

The Italians were predictable in the match, coming into the game as the team called for the most offside infractions as they look to break opposition back lines. They roared of the gates with that same strategy and pressed for an early opener.

Italy had the ball in the back of the net just 10 minutes in via Valentina Giacinti on the break but it was correctly flagged for offside, the fourth goal ruled out for offside this tournament for Italy who likes to test the fortitude of the opposition back line. Minutes later a horrible Chinese turnover by Han Peng at the back led to a shot by Giacinti but she just missed the top-right corner with the goalkeeper out of position.

They would find the opener in the 15th minute in a scrum in front of the goal mouth, with the Chinese goalkeeper coming out to clatter Elisa Bartoli, and the ball fell to Giacinti who finished strong. The Chinese again were scattered defensively, unable to stop the cutting delivery from Barbara Bonansea that set up the chance.

The opener seemed to ignite China’s attack and they began to push forward for an equalizer. In the 28th minute Wang Yan produced an absolutely stunning long-distance shot with the outside of her right boot, curling a fabulous strike destined to finish under the crossbar and forcing Italian goalkeeper Laura Giuliani to acrobatically leap for an equally impressive save.

Italy nearly caught China out of sorts again, but Cristiana Girelli fired just wide and was fractionally offside anyways. Moments later they broke again as Valetina Bergamaschi remained onside and got through, forcing Peng Shimeng to produce a stunning save diving to her right. Italy was then dealt a blow late in the first half as Girelli was forced off by the 90-degree heat, replaced by Aurora Galli. China struck the post soon after with a set-piece header, but the offside flag went up.

After the break, Italy doubled the lead in the 50th minute off another sloppy turnover by China at the back as Galli the substitute fired a speculative low effort from outside the penalty area that found the bottom corner and beat a surprised Shimeng.

That would do it for Italy as they sat back and allowed China to work in the attacking third, but Italy’s stout defensive shape kept the Asian side at bay. They pressed forward on the counter and provided an entertaining second half, but the scoreline was never in doubt as Italy progressed to the quarterfinals while China failed to reach that stage for the first time ever.