After a slender 1-0 win against Argentina just under a week ago, Milena Bertolini’s Italy looked to pick up another three points against Sweden – who themselves left it late to clinch a point against South Africa in their opening game.
SWE: Musovic; Andersson, Eriksson, Ilestedt, Björn; Rubensson, Angeldahl; Rolfö, Asllani, Kaneryd; Blacksteiuns
ITA: Durante; Boattin, Salvai, Linari, Di Guglielmo; Caruso, Giugiliano; Bonansea, Dragoni, Cantore; Beccari
Bertolini has been criticised since the announcement of her squad for leaving numerous key players at home, but a bright start against the team that currently sits third in the FIFA World Rankings indicated that the Italian may well have been on to something – as Cantore forced a save from Musovic in the early stages.
Le Azzurre’s early dominance looked set to continue as Beccari played Cantore through on goal on the right of the box, and poor goalkeeping from Musovic saw the shot spilled into the feet of Di Guglielmo – who sent her follow-up wide of the woodwork.
Yet the latter stages of the half saw Sweden grow into the game, looking to make amends for a shaky start. Having been the hero against South Africa, Ilestedt wrote her name in lights once again as she thumped a close-range header past Durante – with Andersson’s delivery as accurate as they come.
A second looked set to follow courtesy of Blackstenius, though great goalkeeping from Durante ensured that Sweden’s lead would remain slender for the time being. That wouldn’t last long at all though, as another Andersson corner was diverted home to double the Swedish advantage – this time nodded home by Barça Femení’s Rolfö.
There was still time for a third to come before the break though, as Kaneryd’s cross from the right flank was blasted over the line by Blackstenius. A three-goal lead for Sweden at half-time had looked almost impossible throughout the opening twenty minutes or so, but three goals in the ten minutes before the interval had truly established their control on the match.
Sweden bagged their fourth mere minutes after the break, with Ilestedt thumping home yet another Andersson corner at the near-post. In finding the back of the net, Ilestedt became the current joint top-scorer at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup – despite playing at centre-back!
Chances certainly weren’t hard to come by for the Blågult, who looked sure of adding a fifth as Blackstenius was played through on goal, though she could only spurn her effort wide of the woodwork under pressure from the Italian ‘keeper.
Late drama in Wellington saw Durante forced into action again, denying Jakobsson from close range – but the Italian could do nothing to deny a breakaway goal from Blomqvist deep in stoppage time. Having won possession back following an Italian corner, Sweden looked to put the forward through on goal, and she made absolutely no mistake with a cool, classy finish into the bottom-left corner.
Three points for Sweden ensure that the Blågult have sealed their spot in the round-of-sixteen, while Italy will need a win in their final match against South Africa to guarantee their progress. A draw may be enough, though that would see them rely on Sweden avoiding defeat to Argentina. Those two matches will be played at 8am UK time on August 2.