Nazionale A Femminile

World Cup joy: Italy beat Romania to qualify for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Bertolini: “We've made history”

The Azzurre win their final group game with goals from Giacinti and Boattin, leaving Switzerland, despite their 15-0 thrashing of Moldova, to fight it out in the play offs costretta ai play off

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

World Cup joy: Italy beat Romania to qualify for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Bertolini: “We've made history”

After a year of qualification, that has seen some outstanding performances and a timely fightback win against Switzerland, Italy can finally celebrate qualification to the World Cup. In Ferrara, Italy overcame Romania 2-0 to earn them an automatic pass to the tournament that will be held in Australia and New Zealand in August 2023. A boost was needed after a disappointing Euros this summer and the reaction from the Azzurre, as we have come to known, wasn't long in the waiting. Giacinti opened the scoring in the first half before Boattin, with her first international goal, doubled the lead after the restart to seal the win. At the final whistle, the girls celebrated, with around 3,000 fans at the Stadio Paolo Mazza in Ferrara, their second consecutive World Cup qualification, ending a sticky but perfect summer's evening with smiles, hugs and a few water bombs.  

“We are very happy, it's the first time in our history that we have qualified for two successive World Cups. We realise how important this is for the women's game and for this group of girls," said the Head Coach at the final whistle. For them to play in such a competition is just fantastic, and I think it's a kind of liberation after the Euros; the tears at the end of the game showed that."

The match – At stake was a ticket for Oceania and Milena Bertolini stuck with ten of the eleven players that had beaten Moldova easily four days earlier. The only change came in midfield with Greggi replacing Rosucci - one of the best players in the game in Chișinău - to give the team further energy in a squad that has been missing the injured Gama, Bergamaschi, Bonansea, Cernoia, Durante and Linari. Starting in central defence was Lenzini and Filangeri, with Greggi in the holding role in front of them, while in attack Bonfantini and Giacinti were either side of Captain Girelli, a hat-trick hero in the return game.

Italy started the game with the hand-brake on, making some errors and seemingly a little nervous, that didn't allow the Azzurre to play their usual possession-based, attacking style of play. The first 25 minutes passed by without any real incident. The game needed a moment of inspiration to break the deadlock and on the half-hour mark, that is exactly what happened. Greggi won the ball back from the Romanian trequartista to put Giacinti through, who controlled well and on her left foot struck the ball across a helpless Paraluta. The goal relaxed Milena Bertolini's side and from then on tried to increase the pace of the game and their lead. Chances came to Giacinti, Boattin and Caruso but their attempts were hit off target without worrying the Romanian keeper too much.

News came through that Switzerland were winning 8-0 against Moldova after only 45 minutes, which fired up the Azzurre, as they came back out for the second half more aggressively and with an urge to finish the game off, and seal qualification, as soon as possible. Giugliano and Greggi alternated the role of midfield playmaker, trying to find a way through a stubborn and well-organised Romanian defensive led by Coach Cristian Dulca. 

In the other half, instead, Giuliani watched on as a spectator urging her defensive unit to stay alert on the rare occasions Romania tried to push forward, but who were in reality never threatening. On 65 minutes, Giugliano dribbled past her marker and fired a long-range shot but it was too central and was easily stopped by Paraluta. Two minutes later, Bertolini made her first changes replacing Bonfantini with Glionna, and Glionna with Rosucci, called on to shield the defence, complicating further the away side's attacking plays.

The second finally arrived after 73 minutes to seal their pass to the World Cup. At the end of a move, started off by Giacinti on the left, the ball bounced off the Romanians and fell to Boattin who fiercely struck a 20 yard left-footed shot that the opposition goalkeeper could only parry into the net to set off wild celebrations amongst the Italian players. For the Juventus midfielder, it was her first international goal, who celebrated in front of the grandstand as her family and Bianconeri and Azzurre teammates, Gama, Bonansea and Salvai, watched on. With a comfortable lead gained, Milena Bertolini gave minutes to Galli and Cantore to give a deserved standing ovation to Girelli and Caruso. It was an applause from a crowd that sensed qualification and a fifth win out of five games in Ferrara, was within grasp of the Azzurre.

At the full-time whistle, the celebrations started with group photos and lots of jubilant dancing. So, Australia and New Zealand will have with them Milena Bertolini's Italy side, who have less than a year to prepare for the tournament. The World Cup girls are back!