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Saturday , February 22 2020

Italy blank China to continue dream World Cup return

Canada goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, right, leaps to punch the ball away during the Women’s World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Sweden and Canada at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Monday, June 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Sweden sink Canada to set up Germany clash

MONTPELLIER, France, June 25, (RTRS): Italy beat China 2-0 to qualify for the quarter-finals of the women’s World Cup in convincing fashion on Tuesday as their dream return to the tournament after a 20-year absence continued.

Valentina Giacinti and Aurora Galli netted either side of the interval .

Italy have made it to the last eight of the women’s World Cup only once, in the inaugural edition in 1991 when the group phase directly led to the quarter-finals.

China, the 1999 runners-up, enjoyed a good spell before the break but failed to make it count as Italy keeper Laura Giuliani made some good saves.

Milena Bertolini’s team were focused from the outset and were rewarded after 15 minutes as Giacinti started and finished the move for Italy’s opener.

She broke down the right flank and her cross was met by Barbara Bonansea, who played in Elisa Bartoli.

The fullback’s attempt was parried by China keeper Peng Shimeng into the path of Giacinti, who had followed up to stab home from close range.

The Azzurre went close to doubling their tally when Valentina Bergamaschi’s fierce angled shot forced Peng to save at full stretch.

China had a couple of chances through Wang Yan but Italy keeper Giuliani stayed alert to preserve her team’s lead, as the pressure on her goal increased thanks to some fine creative play by Wang Shuang.

Italy, however, regained the momentum early in the second half when Galli, who had replaced the injured Cristiana Girelli in the first half, found the back of the net with a low 20-metre strike in the 50th minute.

It was her third goal of the tournament, with all three having been scored after she came off the bench.

China pushed to find a breakthrough but Italy’s back four were largely untroubled as they kept their opponents at bay until the final whistle.

Sweden’s Stina Blackstenius struck in the second half as they won 1-0 against Canada, who missed a late penalty, at the women’s World Cup to set up a quarter-final against Germany. In sweltering conditions at the Parc des Princes, the two teams struggled to register any shots on target in a first half.

 That all changed after the break when the Swedes stepped up a level and they were finally rewarded in the 55th minute when the Canadians lost possession of the ball in midfield.

Kosovare Asllani played an inch perfect diagonal ball to striker Blackstenius, who prodded the ball past onrushing keeper Stephanie Labbe.

It was her first goal of the tournament and it freed the Swedish team, who almost added a second with a thunderous drive from Fridolina Rolfo in the 61st minute.

Canada had a chance to get back into the game after 68 minutes when they were awarded a penalty after a lengthy VAR review ruled that Asllani had handled the ball.

However, veteran Sweden keeper Hedvig Lindahl dived to her right to tip Janine Beckie’s spot kick away.

The save appeared to suck the spirit out of the Canadians who struggled to create much beyond a few half chances and Asllani almost scored for Sweden five minutes from time as she volleyed in from a corner, but her shot was cleared off the line. Sweden will now face two-time champions Germany on Saturday in Rennes, a repeat of the 2003 final won by Germany.

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