Off to a lightening fast start Italy turned on the class to leave Switzerland looking less than second best at the Cyprus Cup.
Blink and you’ll miss it
Sit down, sit down, don’t stop by the concession to get chips and a drink first and whatever you do, don’t faff about parking your car, too late, you’ve already missed a goal.
Promised a close contest you might be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into the wrong stadium, but Italy were off and running four minutes in after having dictated the handful of second from the whistle. A free kick, a corner, a header to nod the ball on and Barbara Bonansea potent as ever to finish off the set piece with a swift flick of the neck muscles.
Absolutely insatiable over the opening exchanges, the venerable blues refused to relent, charging at their opposition and playing games with the new-look defence and giving Gaëlle Thalmann plenty to worry about.
The first half was fast, maybe not a disappointing car jacking movie with Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie fast but, blink and you’ll invariably miss something fast. The Swiss grew into the game but were always playing catch-up, Ramona Bachmann looked to turn on the style for La Nati but like her teammates, was left wanting. The ball whizzed and fizzed across the turf, the football gloriously end-to-end, both teams having flow into the match as if it were the World Cup final not the first match of four in eight days. The abandon was reckless but no one seemed to care as the chances came and went for both.
The second goal was nothing more than an inevitability but nothing less than a mouth-wateringly sumptuous solo effort from Valentina Bergamaschi. Breaking with the ball, the 21-year-old felt the full-force of Bachmann’s meaty challenge but stayed on her feet, picking up speed and shrugging off a stubborn Vanesa Bernauer. The grass ahead was green as the space opened up for the Brescia woman, one-on-one with Thalmann and having done the hard-work, the light-footed attacker fired low away from the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner.
A two goal cushion and a fierce schedule ahead of them, Italy were unwavering, staunchly refusing to slow down. A chance her, another there, Daniela Sabatino took a touch, then another, around one defender and her mate, her shot claimed by Thalmann. A composed volley from Bonansea, flicked just over the bar, Switzerland struggling to do much of anything again. The whistle and a reprieve for Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s team though it was unlikely the dressing room would be a friendlier place than the pitch.
Blue, red and yellow
Things might have been fast and furious in the first half but just like Jason Statham, no one was about to slow down after the break. Italy, who should have been about ready to take a well-deserved nap opted to ease off of the gas (rather than reaching for the pyjamas) and let the Swiss kick up the pace.
A fizzing shot from Bachmann that bubbled over the bar, dogged footwork from Laura Dickenmann to keep the ball alive, Laura Giuliani forced to work. A genuine effort from La Nati like a shot across the bows for Italy, the Azzurre warming back up to terrorise Thalmann’s goal once more. Cristiana Girelli all but ready to tear her hair out as another shot failed to land, the midfielder on the verge of combustion, desperate to score.
Two goals down, an hour in, Voss-Tecklenburg did what all FIFA fans did and made a triple-substitution, the team recycling itself but still unable to find their footing and work a way back into the match. A deflected effort from Valentina Giacinti pushed clear by Thalmann before the pair clashed in the box, the attacker free though a poor touch gave the ‘keeper time to regroup, the challenge deemed a fair one.
The pace wavered after the hour but the intent failed to diminish, the persistence of fouls and physicality remained though neither team seemed to mind, giving as good as they got. Body-slams, trips, pull-backs, it was all fair game, the friendly far from it. Even still, Lina Lehtovaara let the match play out, the tone set early on, the cards shown sporadically, bruises already maturing to deep blackberry stains on tired flesh.
A final third
Having denied two strong penalty claims, Lehtovaara relented and gave Italy a chance to finally score their third after having come close on more occasions than the Italians would like to remember. Girelli clinical from 12-yards, the match well over and Switzerland still without a thing to show for their efforts. With three in the bag, the Italians continued to attack, not letting up until the end, three points in the bag for a stylish evening of football.