The 2019 Women’s World Cup continues to entertain as Group C becomes the third group to kickoff, with a full-throttled match between Australia and Italy. This opening Group C fixture came up with a bit of a shocking upset as Italy snatched it at the very end to beat the NWSL-powered Australia. Let’s get right into our Tactical Analysis for this intriguing match-up between Australia and Italy.
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Italy’s 4-3-3 system looked fluid and destructive in attack as they frequently utilized long-passes to get in behind Australia’s defense. Australia meanwhile set up with a slightly more defensive looking 4-5-1, which they used to draw Raso and Foord into the game. At times, Sam Kerr looked isolated on her own as the midfield triangle took turns joining the attack and Raso and Foord struggled to really make their mark.
Ten of Italy’s starting eleven for the match play their club football in Italy, while ten of Australia’s starting eleven play their club football in the United States. The two exceptions to that were Italy’s Atletico Madrid defender Elena Linari, and central midfielder Tameka Yallop who plays in Norway for Klepp IL.
Australia (4-5-1): L. Williams (GK), Catley (RB), Kennedy (CB), Polkinghorne (CB), Carpenter (LB), Raso (RM), Yallop (CM), van Egmond (DM), Logarzo (CM), Foord (LM), Kerr (CF)
Italy: (4-3-3): Giuliani (GK), Bergamaschi (RB), Gama (CB), Linari (CB), Gugani (LB), Galli (CM), Giugliano (DM), Cernoia (CM), Mauro (RW), Girelli (CF), Bonansea (LW)
STYLE OF PLAYEmbed from Getty Images
Australia attempted to dominate most of the possession and became uncomfortable with Italy’s rough and tumble approach. Australia quickly upped the anty and matched Italy’s physicality. It’s no wonder that the match ended with 39 fouls in just 90 minutes.
Italy relied more frequently on a long-ball style of game. This comes in stark contrast to the Italian’s men’s team who have players like Jorginho and Marco Verratti, some of the best in the world with the ball on the deck. On goal kicks, they rarely played out from the back and the vast majority of the time looked to immediately play in their attackers instead. This ended up being a successful tactic and Italy looked the far stronger in the air. The Italians won 22 of their aerial duels in the match, compared to Australia with just 13. Although Australia had more chances, Italy’s goalkeeper Giuliani was up to the task and Italy looked dangerous on the break. Within 10 minutes of the match, Bonansea scored a wonderful goal off of a phenomenal pass from midfield. Unfortunately for her, she was less than a millimeter off-side (if even that), and the goal was ruled out. However, this was the first time in the match where Australia’s dangerous high line was called into question. The ball from the Italian midfield was absolutely sublime and Bonansea’s speed was far too quick for the NWSL-filled back-line to match.
However, Australia continued to play down the wings, mainly through Hayley Raso and Caitlin Foord. Toward the 20 minute mark the ball was sent into the box from the right and Juve defender Sara Gama foolishly strong-armed Sam Kerr to the ground. The Chicago Red Stars striker stepped up to take the penalty, but she was denied by Giuliani. Unfortunately for the Italian keeper, the ball rebounded right into the path of Kerr and the Australian striker dispatched the ball into the back of the net. Australia’s use of the wide areas continued throughout the match and the Aussies ended with a total of 32 crosses.
ITALY GROWS INTO THE GAMEEmbed from Getty Images
For much of the remainder of the first half, Australia looked reasonably comfortable in possession but could never get a strong enough hold on the game until play was either broken up or a player was fouled. The flow of the game was disrupted throughout, especially with VAR scrutinizing for minutes over several decisions.
In the second half, the physicality from both teams continued to run high, but never stepped over the line and Italy were shown only three yellow cards to Australia’s one during the match. Australia continued to try to play out from the back and they were punished for doing so early in the second half when they got the shape of their back-line all wrong. The normally reliable Claire Polkinghorne gave the ball away to the powerful Barbara Bonansea who exploded into the box, danced around Alannah Kennedy who got her body shape all wrong, and the Italian finished it into the bottom corner. The match was all tied at 1-1 and Italy began to grow into the match.
Italy continued to play on the break and had another goal disallowed from off-side, this time from Daniela Sabatino. Sabatino had only come onto the pitch just minutes earlier and her introduction into the match really sparked some life into Italy going forward. Through their defensive and aerial presence, the Italians continued to grow into the match and thwarted the few attacks Australia created. Toward the end of the match, Italy won a free kick on the far right side and the ball was delicately whipped in from Valentina Cernoia. Australia couldn’t handle the pressure and in a battle between the goal-scorers, Barbara Bonansea rose above Sam Kerr and headed home the game winner with practically the final kick of the game.
Although Australia had more shots, more time on the ball and greater success with their passing, they did very little with the chances they had and Italy took full control, scoring on every single major chance they had, including the two disallowed goals. In the end, the underestimated Italian side looked like a very complete unit and had a clear identity, while the Australians lacked a distinct style of play and struggled to create for their star striker Sam Kerr. In the dying seconds Australia crumbled under the pressure and Italy took all three points to top Group C.
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See you next time!