Italy may have already secured their place in the next round, but their final Group C encounter with Brazil still promises to be an intriguing clash as the latter also hope to advance. The Seleção will need to better Australia’s result against Jamaica to guarantee they remain in the competition, a tall order given the form of their next opponent.
Having reached the World Cup for the first time in 20 years, Italy have been one of the most surprising teams in France this summer, notching wins over Jamaica and Australia to sit comfortably atop the table with one round of matches remaining.
Milena Bertolini has been excellent thus far, the coach deploying her side in a basic 4-4-2 formation but constantly shifting her players around in order to exploit opposition weaknesses in each fixture.
The Azzurre totalled just 37% of the possession in their 2-1 victory over Australia, sitting deep and absorbing the best the attacking Matildas could offer, but then changed completely to demolish Jamaica 5-0. With 57% of the ball, Italy took the game to a much weaker side, pressing high up the pitch and constantly causing problems for the underwhelming Reggae Girlz in what was a comprehensive rout.
With superior positioning at both ends of the field, Bertolini’s players maintained a compact defensive shape that denied Jamaica time and space in central areas, constantly forcing them out wide before pressing and winning back possession.
Once they had the ball, the movement of Cristiana Girelli was a major weapon for Italy as she found pockets of space between the lines, while the high quality of their passing allowed the Azzurre to easily bypass the Jamaica midfield.
“The media attention we’re getting is invaluable for the growth of women’s football in Italy,” said Girelli shortly after the final whistle. “We are here trying to win but we are also here to send a strong message to society back home, that there is still so much to do. We are here to be role models to little girls who are starting to play football and who could one day experience games like we’ve just had against Australia and Jamaica.”
It should be a much more difficult proposition against Marta and Brazil however, a team who must look to shake off an error-filled performance of their own against Australia if they are to bounce back and claim all three points on Tuesday in Valenciennes.
The Selecao opted for a 4-5-1 system last time out, but somehow lacked the width to deal with Australia in wide areas and they also displayed a shocking inability to cope with crosses into the box. Ellie Carpenter in particular enjoyed herself, Marta’s failure to to track back allowing the full-back to carry the ball forward unopposed which in turn dragged other Brazil players out of position throughout the game.
Brazil’s backline was constantly sitting deep, which only added to their problems, and coach Vadão will have much work to do if he is to rectify their problems in time.