Italy 1-0 Argentina: Girelli the hero for Le Azzurre

Argentina came into this fixture with Italy looking for their first win at a Women’s World Cup, having failed to do so at any of the three previous tournaments for which they qualified. The Italians enter this competition hoping to emulate their performance at their previous Women’s World Cup in France – when they reached the quarter-finals. Both nations know that this is a competitive group, and a victory would be advantageous as they look to qualify for the knockout rounds.

ITA: Durante, Di Guglielmo, Linari, Salvai, Boattin, Giugliano, Dragoni, Bonansea, Caruso, Beccari, Giacinti

ARG: Correa, Stábile, Cometti, Mayorga, Braun, Benítez, Falfán, Bonsegundo, Banini, Núñez, Larroquette

The Argentinians had to withstand a frantic start from the Italians in the first fifteen minutes of the game, culminating in an offside goal from Arianna Caruso 14 minutes in. However, following this period of early Italian pressure, the rest of the half settled into a chess match as both sides looked to work their opponent out and exploit weaknesses.

The Italian defence looked untroubled throughout the first half – but maintained a watchful eye on Estefanía Banini, as she looked a bright spark in a lacklustre Argentine first half. The half finished with the ball in the back of the Argentine net a second time, but again it was an easy offside decision for the officials as Valentina Giacinti failed to time her run.

The second half continued where the first half left off. The Italians looked more likely to score throughout the early stages of the half as the Argentinians sat back inviting pressure, allowing Italy to exert more control of possession – but they could not create a clear opening. The Italians remained resolute at the back as the Argentines offered little going forward, despite causing some problems from a couple of set-pieces.

The match looked to be heading for a goalless draw, before a cross in the 85th minute from Lisa Boattin was brilliantly attacked by Cristiana Girelli – just four minutes after her introduction. This goal ignited the game into life for the latter stages, and Argentina chased an equalising goal but left themselves vulnerable at the back. In spite of the attacking intent from Argentina, they could only create an opportunity from a free-kick that was easily dealt with by Francesca Durante.

Italy will be pleased to have secured the three points, especially as they face daunting opponents in Sweden next. Group G action resumes on Friday 28th July as Argentina face South Africa in Dunedin, while Italy and Sweden will face off in Wellington on Saturday 29th July. A win for either side in Wellington would seal their spot in the round-of-sixteen.

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