France vs Italy: The Game
France came into this competition as favourites, sitting third in the FIFA rankings, but Italy are no pushovers either. They haven’t gotten past the Quarter Final stage in their Euros history, but against Italy, they looked like a scary team ready to run over whoever stood in their path to Glory. Les Bleues sent FIVE! scary messages to the rest of the competition, completely running over the Italians, leaving destruction in their wake. Italy, suffering their first defeat in 20 games, had themselves to blame. Their haphazard defending exposed their backline to a trouncing. They would look to pick themselves up, dust off the humiliation and get their tournament back on track. This tournament has already produced some scintillating games like the 2-2 draw between Portugal and Switzerland – this looked like another incredible showpiece.
Where did France and Italy stand before the tournament?
Out to prove a point, Head Coach Corinne Diacre has turned to a new generation of talent. She left out some big names, including Lyon duo Amandine Henry and the Nation’s all-time highest goal scorer, Eugenie Le Sommer. Les Bleues come into this tie on the back of a 7-0 thrashing of Vietnam, continuing their run of 14 consecutive wins. They would look to carry that clinical fearlessness and fortitude to Rotherham. They wanted to take command of Group D.
Italy, on the other hand, is undergoing a period of reinvention. They were once a European force to be reckoned with in the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s. However, they have fallen off the centre stage in the 21st century. Le Azzurre has failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals since reaching the final in 1997.
Milena Bertolini’s side are not in their best form despite losing just two of their last 18 games. However, they needed to do better than in their 1-1 draw against Spain if they wanted to get past this riveting and exuberant French side. They have managed just one win in the last five meetings with France.
France became the first team ever to score five in the first half of the Women’s European Championship
The first half got off to a frantic start as both sides looked to steal an early lead. Kadidiatou Diani had an early chance after Sandie Toletti managed to get a cross in. However, her chance went over the bar. Minutes later, chaos ensued in the French 18-yard area when Wendie Renard’s clearance was blocked. Goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin cleared, but Barbara Bonansea picked up the pieces and rifled a fierce shot at goal. She was denied by the French goalie.
Barely eight minutes into the game, Les Bleues struck first. Diani swung in a low cross, the defenders failed to clear their lines, and it fell kindly for Grace Geyoro. She made no mistake, poking the ball into the corner. Both sides had a cracking start to the game, with chances all around the pitch. Italy looked for an instant response to Geyoro’s opener, but Aurora Galli’s effort from 25 yards out was palmed away by Peyraud-Magnin. Three minutes after the opener, France doubled their lead. Sakina Karchaoui’s low cross took a deflection, Laura Giuliani came to collect but fumbled the ball, allowing Katoto to pounce on the rebound and slot home.
The first goal may have cracked the Italians, but the second ensured total capitulation. There was almost a hope-shattering third in quick succession. Katoto got on the end of a beautiful cross. Her header drifted across goal, and Giuliani was beaten, but she was denied by the post. The Italians had a glimmer of what could have been the start of a comeback, but were denied by the fingertips of Peyraud-Magnin.
Italy couldn’t keep the rampant blues in check, and Delphine Cascarino netted a goal of the tournament contender in the 38th minute. She picked up the ball on the edge of the box, cut inside, and then smashed a ferocious effort into the net for France’s third. The French supporters barely had time to celebrate the third goal when the fourth went in. Guiliani rushed out to challenge Geyoro inside the box, but the tricky forward went around her and slotted into the empty net. Geyoro piled on the misery of the Italians when she grabbed her hattrick on the stroke of halftime. A cross came in from the left-hand side, and Geyoro fired home into the far corner, ensuring a well-deserved match ball after a fiery performance.
In the second half, Italy were playing For Pride
The game was done and dusted in the opening half. The Italians were beyond saving, beyond redemption, beyond a comeback. They had to see it through and endure 45 more minutes of torture. Their first effort at goal since the 10th minute came in the 51st when Valentina headed off target.
Tempers began to flare up as Le Azzurre couldn’t contain their frustration. Half-time substitute Flaminia Simonetti put in a late and reckless challenge on Sandie Toletti after the ball had gone, and she was booked for it. Peyraud-Magnin made a mess trying to clear a cross. Her punched clearance fell to Lisa Boattin, who smashed wide of the far post. Italy captain Sara Gama was the next to put in a violent tackle catching Geyoro with a high boot and arm. The referee’s decision to show a red card was overturned after VAR deemed the challenge a yellow card offence.
Elena Linari came close to a consolation goal for Le Azzurre. She had a chance for a tap-in from six yards out, but a French defender got a touch just in time. Italy would not be denied the second time asking. Second-half substitute Martina Piemonte got in between two defenders to meet Boattin’s cross, and guided the ball into the net. A reward for a better second-half showing, but it was too little too late.
Selma Bacha came close to getting a sixth for France, but her effort grazed the post on its way wide. The French were dominant, unwavering, and had one thing in mind, demolition! Mission Accomplished. They have taken charge of group D, sending a rather scary message to Belgium, Iceland, and indeed the rest of the competition. Milena Bertolini has her work cut out as the Italians would need to recover from this drubbing in time to get their Euro 2022 tournament back on track when they take on Iceland who drew Belgium in the group opener.