STADIO PAOLO MAZZA (Ferrara): Italy officially booked their place at the 2023 Women’s World Cup on Tuesday night as they suffered en route to recording a 2-0 win over Romania, clinching top spot and battling off the threat of Switzerland in the final set of Group G fixtures.
The Azzurre didn’t have things all their own way at the Paolo Mazza, despite dominating stages of the game, and they were made to sweat more than they would have liked before Lisa Boattin’s stunning 74th-minute strike gave them some breathing room. Before the full-back found the top corner, there was an apparent nervousness surrounding the Azzurre even after Valentina Giacinti’s first-half opener.
Greggi and Giacinti combine as Italy break down stubborn Romania
Unlike in Moldova last time out, the Azzurre struggled to get anywhere near Andrea Paraluta’s goal for the majority of the first half and the night as a whole. Although they had little of the ball, Romania were compact and there was little to no space for Italy to work through.
That was until Giada Greggi unpicked the lock. With Cristiana Girelli dropping deep on opposing goal kicks to offer an aerial presence, Greggi was allowed to venture forward a little. That then led to her finding a pocket of space between Romania’s defensive and midfield lines, and her having the ball at her feet there usually spells danger.
The AS Roma midfielder’s first touch was positive and perfect as ever, and as she moved infield she slipped a ball into Giallorosse teammate Valentina Giacinti’s path. On this occasion, the no.9 managed to stay onside, took a touch, and finished into the corner.
Italy grew nervous as Switzerland piled misery onto Moldova
The talk at the Paolo Mazza was largely focused on the game slightly north and over the border, with Switzerland having a lead that was near double digits by half time. Switzerland eventually ran out 15-0 winners.
That was all well and good as long as Italy won, the Azzurre letting their lead slip and Switzerland hammering Moldova could have seen the near neighbours overtake them into top spot.
There was an obvious tension and nervousness in Ferrara as every Swiss goal added to the risk of only having a one-goal lead. That appeared to filter through to the pitch as well.
Greggi and Filangeri, the future of this Italy, show maturity and coolness
While she was on the pitch, Giada Greggi epitomised calm more than anybody, and fellow 22-year-old Maria Luisa Filangeri behind her exhibited a maturity far beyond her years, looking to be a player with considerably more than just three international appearances to her name previously.
Greggi hardly put a foot wrong before her substitution. It was clear that all of her teammates looked for her when they were in possession and, as is the case with AS Roma, it’s hard to think of a single example of her making a poor decision. There was one incident of her losing the ball, but within three seconds she had won it back herself.
It showed that Filangeri is a student of Gianpiero Piovani and Sassuolo, as she was as comfortable with the ball at her feet as anybody on the pitch. With Sara Gama out and watching from the stands in Ferrara, Italy can be assured that they have a ready-made excellent option in waiting in Filangeri. Even that might be doing her a disservice though, and it’s probably time for her to be a serious contender to be in the XI for even the biggest games.