Girelli-inspired Italy into World Cup knockouts, Japan stay on course
Cristiana Girelli fired Italy into the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup on Friday with a controversial VAR-assisted hat-trick that helped see off hapless Jamaica 5-0 and put them top of Group C.
Italy join France and Germany in the knockout stages following the Juventus striker’s treble and a late brace from Aurora Galli, which gives Milena Bertolini’s side a perfect six points — three more than both Australia and Brazil and puts them through with a game to spare.
However the penalty with which Girelli opened her tournament account caused controversy, with referee Anna-Marie Keighley pointing to the spot after a VAR check in the 10th minute for a what looked like a soft foul on Barabara Bonansea.
Girelli then missed the spot-kick, but Keighley allowed her to retake following another VAR check that Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider had encroached.
The 29-year-old made no mistake the second time round — two minutes after the original penalty was given — before doubling Italy’s lead 13 minutes later when she bundled home Bonansea’s flick-on from a corner.
Girelli became just the second Italian woman to score a World Cup hat-trick just after the break when she beat Schneider to a looping cross.
Substitute Galli then completed the rout, first firing home a long-range effort in the 71st minute before neatly taking Manuela Giugliano’s through ball and rounding Schneider to slot home the fifth 10 minutes later.
Italy can now guarantee top spot in the group by getting a result from their final game against Brazil, although their superior goal difference means they can lose and still maintain first place.
‘Room for improvement’
Earlier Japan coach Asako Takakura insisted there is more to come from her young team after the Nadeshiko gave their campaign a shot in the arm by beating Scotland 2-1 in Rennes.
Mana Iwabuchi set the 2011 winners on their way and Yuika Sugasawa converted a penalty as Japan closed on qualifying for the last 16, just four days after a disappointing display in a goalless draw against Argentina.
Takakura’s side will now go into their final Group D game against England, who can qualify for the knockout stages with a win over Argentina later on Friday, with a chance of finishing top and ensuring a more favourable draw in the last 16.
“It was a must-win game and, although there were difficult moments, we needed to be aggressive and score goals, and that is what we did,” said the coach, whose starting line-up featured six players aged 23 or under, including 19-year-old Jun Endo.
“We have beaten a wonderful Scottish team, but there is room for improvement so we will discuss how we can get better.”
Scotland got a goal back late on through substitute Lana Clelland, but they will be disappointed at offering nothing going forward until it was too late after being 2-0 down at half-time, just like in their opening defeat against England.
“I thought we saw the real Japan today. Their movement was incredible — we knew it would be, and we tried to set up in a way to stop them,” said Scotland coach Shelley Kerr.”In spells of the game we didn’t do that, which sometimes can be understandable because you’re playing against world-class players.”
A poor headed clearance by captain Rachel Corsie led to Japan taking the lead midway through the first half as Iwabuchi sent a shot high into the net from the edge of the area.
Japan were handed the chance to increase their lead in the 37th minute when Sugasawa felt a slight pull from Corsie in the box and went down.
Sugasawa duly dispatched the penalty, and Hina Sugita then hit the bar from close range.Erin Cuthbert hit the woodwork from close range before Fiorentina’s Lana Clelland did find the net from 25 yards with two minutes to go.
It proved to be a mere consolation, and their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 at their debut World Cup are slim before a final group game against Argentina in Paris.
No comments yet