But the Italian women are doing brilliantly at this year’s Women’s World Cup in France, making history Friday by reaching the knockout phase for the first time since 1991 after Cristiana Girelli’s hat-trick inspired a 5-0 victory against Jamaica.
It follows a hugely successful qualifying campaign where, not surprisingly, the Italian defense was difficult to breach.
“Emotions I’m feeling are of joy, sheer joy,” Italy coach Milena Bertolini was quoted as saying by FIFA. “We wanted to move on in the group phase and to do this after two matches is a great satisfaction for us.
“The girls were awesome, to stay with their feet well planted on the ground considering all of the attention and coverage we’re getting back home.”
The use of VAR, or a video assistant referee, continues to divide opinion but when it was utilized by referee Anna-Marie Keighley to check on a possible penalty, it appeared that the right outcome was reached.
Keighley initially didn’t point to the spot when Allyson Swaby made contact with Barbara Bonansea but changed her mind.
Sydney Schneider dived to her left to stop Girelli but the kick was ordered retaken after the goalkeeper was ruled to be off her line before it took place.
Replays might have justified the decision but far worse breaches of the rule are rarely called.
Girelli took advantage of her second chance, this time going to the keeper’s right in the 12th minute.
If that was a bit of luck for Girelli, there was more to come. Girelli’s second goal in the 25th minute deflected off her thigh from a corner and in the 46th minute Schneider missed her punch and the ball found its way into the net off Girelli’s shoulder.
All that was left realistically for 53rd-ranked Jamaica was to limit the damage — and see if it could score a first-ever World Cup goal.
It almost happened in the 58th minute when Italy goalkeeper Laura Giuliani dithered with the ball at her feet. She was caught out by Jamaica’s top offensive threat, Khadija Shaw, before Italy recovered.
Seconds later, Shaw saw yellow when her right foot cruised into the mouth of Italian skipper Sara Gama on a scissor kick.
Giuliani made a fingertip save in the 68th minute.
Substitute Aurora Galli then provided Italy’s fourth goal, courtesy of a thunderous right-footed drive that Schneider got a hand to, and she completed the scoring in the 81st, sprinting to get in behind the Jamaica defense and slaloming past Schneider.
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