Italy went into their final qualifying game, knowing that any win, apart from 1-0, would see them avoid the play-offs. In the end, it took them less than five minutes to achieve that.
Italy: Giuliani; Bergamaschi, Gama, Salvai, Bartoli; Cernoia, Rosucci, Giugliano; Giacinti, Girelli, Bonansea.
Israel: Rubin; Shanab, David, Ozel; Hazan, Sendel, Sofer, Michaeli; Avital, Selimhodzic, Shtainshnaide.
In the opening fixture of their qualification campaign, Italy escaped from Israel with a 3-2 win. They had gone behind in the first-half and it took them until added time before they grabbed the equaliser before the break.Embed from Getty Images
Italy’s only defeat came at the hands of eventual group winners Denmark in October of last year. A scoreless draw away to the Danes in December kept their bid for an automatic runners-up place on track.
Knowing they needed to win and score two goals may not have seemed the easiest of tasks after their previous encounter. However this was a much changed Israeli side. In Fiorentina’s Franchi stadium, Italy wasted no time in showing that they meant business.
With less than three minutes on the clock, Valentina Giacinti had already settled any Italian nerves with her well taken early goal. Less than two minutes later and the home side had already doubled their lead.
Israel failed to deal with a ball in the area and Barbara Bonansea was quickest to pounce on the loose ball.
By half time, the game was turning into a procession for Milena Bartolini’s side. Giacinti grabbed her second before a back-pass led to a disastrous own goal.
Serie A leading scorer Cristiana Girelli and then Cecilia Salvia had made it 6-0. A penalty in added time before the break was put away by Martina Rosucci.Embed from Getty Images
Second Half Subs
Both sides made three changes each after the break. Italy sent on Daniela Sabatino, Lisa Boattin and Benedetta Glionna.
Glionna, 21, has impressed this season while on loan at Empoli from Juventus and she certainly showed her quality on the wing in her 45 minutes on the pitch.
Italy’s first goal in the second half came from another penalty. This time it was Fiorentina striker Sabatino who made no mistake in her home stadium.
Another substitute, Arianna Caruso, wasted no time in making an impact. Only on the pitch two minutes and it was her goal which made it 9-0. Caruso had replaced her Juventus teammate Sara Gama, and their club will be hoping her injury is not too serious.
Sabatino then scored her second to make it 10-0, before Bonansea also added to her earlier goal. At this stage Italy were playing in ten, having used all their replacements Giacinti went off with what looked like a muscular problem.
Lucia Di Guglielmo had replaced Bergamaschi earlier, meaning a first ever appearance for the Empoli defender with the Italian senior side.
With the score at 11-0, awarding added time seemed a little unnecessary. It did allow Italy to grab one final goal, Manuela Giugliano netting her sixth international goal.
It was here in the Stadio Artemio Franchi that Italy secured qualification for the last World Cup tournament. Yet again, Florence played witness to scenes of celebration as Italy could finally relax having secured their place at next year’s Euro Championships in England.