MONTPELLIER, France (AFP) – Italy reached the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in nearly three decades after beating China 2-0 in Montpellier yesterday.
A 15th-minute tap in from Valentina Giacinti and substitute Aurora Galli’s fierce drive three minutes after the break saw Milena Bertolini’s side see off a committed Chinese side and match their best run in the competition back in 1991.
The Italians will now face the Netherlands after they beat Japan, in Valenciennes on Saturday for a shot at their first ever appearance in the last four.
“It’s a great result after a difficult match. Today wasn’t a display of beautiful football but the girls gave everything and we were clinical,” said Bertolini to TV station Rai.
“To reach the quarter-finals is hugely satisfying.”
They will fancy their chances after a dream-like run in France that saw them win yesterday’s last 16 clash in Montpellier after topping a group containing Marta’s Brazil and pre-tournament dark horses Australia.
Giancinti started the move that gave Italy the lead after already having one effort ruled out for offside, feeding Barbara Bonansea on the edge of the box before the Juventus attacker slipped in Elisa Bartoli.
Roma defender Bartoli’s low effort was eventually tapped by Giacinti following Peng Shimeng’s smart save and indecision from the Chinese defence.
The Italians had chances to extend their lead through Giacinti and her AC Milan teammate Valentina Bergamaschi, who forced a superb save from Peng, but China pinned them back as the half wore on.
However they effectively sealed their place in the semi-finals almost immediately after the restart through Galli, who collected Alia Guagni’s pass and composed herself before drilling a low shot past Peng.
From there, outsiders Italy held off a determined China side with typically dogged defending and some solid goalkeeping from Laura Guliani to push them to equal their best-ever World Cup performance back in the first edition of the tournament.