There is one Italian National Team that made it to the football World Cup, even if we will have to wait one year to see it. With only six days left before the Russian competition starts, and the well-known absence of the Azzurri, girl power restored our battered national pride yesterday as the Azzurre wrapped a sensational qualification to Women’s World Cup 2019 by beating Portugal 3-0.
Goals by Cristiana Girelli, Cecilia Salvai, and Barbara Bonansea brought Italy back to the ladies’ top international competition, 20 years after their last participation in 1999. Coach Milena Bertolini’s girls swept UEFA Group 6 of the qualification round, capturing seven wins in seven games.
The last home match against Portugal certified a domination marked by 21 goals scored and only 5 conceded, with Girelli breaching into A Selecção das Quinas’ defense after four minutes only, before Salvai made it two with a doubtful shot – which may or may have not completely made it past the goal line. But hey – who cares, as Italy’s superiority was confirmed with two more shots that hit the woodwork and a late goal by Bonansea, that set the score to 3-0.
6500 fans accompanied the Azzurre at the Artemio Franchi Stadium in Florence – the home of recently-formed Fiorentina Women’s club – showing how much visibility women football is starting to gain in Italy. No wonder, considering how the boys have been performing recently.
Our football-playing ladies have everything their male counterparts do: A domestic league now professionally managed by FIGC (the Italian Football Federation), and a Juventus side that dominate it – as the Bianconeri created their women’s division just one year ago, only to promptly win the title at first try. Oh, and yes, also that World Cup qualification that the Azzurri shamefully missed.
Had they played with only half of the grit those ladies put into the pitch yesterday, they would have easily made it to the upcoming football fest in Russia. So, it will be up to the girls to make up for the screw ups the boys did. After all, isn’t it how it always goes in Italian families?
Grazie di cuore, Azzurre, and see you in France in 2019!