Euro 2022 qualifying: A gift from Finland boosts the Azzurre’s direct qualification chancesA victory with at least two goals scored should now suffice following the Scandinavians’ win against Portugal
Friday, February 19, 2021
An unexpected ending which changes – not completely, but significantly – the situation for next Wednesday, when Italy Women will face off against Israel in Florence in the decisive match that could allow them to proceed directly to the Euros (kick-off 17:30 CET).
With a complicated situation having developed in the fight to directly qualify for next summer’s tournament, Milena Bertolini’s Azzurre anxiously awaited the result of Finland vs. Portugal, the Group E game played in the late afternoon on Scandinavian soil. A draw would have made it very likely that both would secure direct qualification. However, just when a 0-0 stalemate seemed inevitable, a goal arrived that catapulted the Finns to England and gifted Italy with a decisively more accommodating situation with regards to their match on 24 February: in the third minute of the three minutes of injury time, Linda Sallstrom broke away from her marker with some nifty dribbling and found the net from the edge of the area.
It’s a goal that changes everything or, to put it better, the current ranking of the second-place teams. For Italy – unless there are some highly unlikely results in other games – a six-goal win against Israel is no longer necessary for them to secure their spot in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022. Instead, it should now suffice to score at least two goals and beat the Israelis. The only victory that wouldn’t quite cut it for them to qualify for next summer’s tournament would be 1-0: in this case, Switzerland and the Azzurre would have the same goal difference, but the former would have the edge in terms of goals scored (20 vs. 19).
Portugal, who will play their final game of the group against Scotland on Tuesday, would have to win by at least eight goals on Scottish soil if they were to qualify directly instead of the Azzurre. However, if Italy were to beat Israel 2-0, for example, Portugal would have to win at least 10-0. Quite an unlikely scenario, given the relative strength of a Scottish side who played in the 2019 World Cup in France.
Italy’s destiny is now more than ever in their own hands. While they’ll be facing a tough and aggressive opponent, they’re now undoubtedly in an easier situation.