We all know why I woke up at 2am to watch this game. I needed to see Italy get kicked out of the tournament. After the heart-breaking knock out of the Matilda’s, the emotional speech from Marta after Brazil’s loss, no-one from our group was allowed to survive! Plus, I still hold that respective Matildas and Socceroos grudge.
Given that China had only scored one goal in this tournament so far, my expectations were pretty low. But China also did a good job of holding off Spain, only allowed Germany to score one goal, and with all the other VAR drama in the Round of 16 games, my expectations for at least an edge of your seat and controversial match were high.
If you have read any of my other articles, you might know where this is going and assume I am cursed. Italy did not get my angry memo about no Group C survivors and went on to win 2-0 in what was a pretty lame event. Don’t get me wrong, there were some entertaining moments in this game, but I was again continuously frustrated by one team (China), annoyed by the other (Italy), and there were no cards and no VAR drama. What did I sacrifice sleep for, exactly? Even #sokkahtwitter couldn’t help me out here.
Italy went on the early attack with Giacinti having a goal disallowed for offside in the 9th minute, a beautiful shot in the 12 th minute, and finally a goal in the 14 th minute. It was pretty fast and inevitable. But the thing is, the goal was a mess. Bonansea who was so clinical against Australia fumbled with the ball outside of the box, her failed pass then rebounded off two Chinese players, only to land near Bartoli who was taken out by the China’s GK, Shimeng, and then the ball bounced to Giacinti who was in the right place, right time, to put it in the back of the net. If she hadn’t scored, there would be definite calls for a penalty as Shimeng flew legs first into the tackle/save with Bartoli.
China were fighting back though and in the 27 th minute, Wang Yan had a nice lob on goal that was just touched over by Giuliani. Initially, China were lacking composure in front of goal. High crosses to no one and one too many touches close to goal meant my frustration was rising. (Where is the Hyundia i30 now btw? Can we keep passing it onto each team that doesn’t shoot!). However, this changed for China when ironically, Italy decided to take off Girelli and replace her with Galli. Clearly Italy were going into park the bus mode but China were having none of it. They were unlucky when Li Ying hit the post in the 41st minute and kept pressing forward into extra time. Not getting that goal before the break though was clearly defeating for China.
When they returned from the locker rooms, Italy went on the attack again and from seemingly nothing, Galli put a shot in the corner with no one around her. Sigh. I thought China would keep up the pace, continue their push forward, but it felt like I was watching a repeat of the first half. The same mistakes were being played out and as time went on, they were correcting them, but why were they even making them in the first place?
As I said earlier, China had only scored one goal in the tournament so far and now I needed them to score three in 45 minutes to oust Italy. My chances were in the negatives. This is not to say China didn’t try, but the difference is noticeable in the execution. With 19 shots, only 6 were on target and around the 70th minute mark it felt like most of their forwards were going for heroics which just didn’t work when no one was there to support.
Italy were then happy to sit back and defend and who could blame them? China spent more time fumbling over their own feet, some of the Italian girls had yellow cards and didn’t want to risk missing the quarters, so the final minutes sailed by and even though China had 9 corners to Italy’s 0, they did nothing with them.
Finally, and true to form, Italy’s Giugliano then spent the last couple of minutes rolling around on the ground and China fumbled a final chance for a consolation goal. It was a much-improved performance to their last games but not enough to stop Le Azzurre from advancing to the quarters.
By Nerisa Dozo