Women's World Cup: Italy 0-2 Netherlands
(Photo: Getty Images/Marcio Machado)

Everyone had fallen in love with the Italy national team in this World Cup, but unfortunately for them, their run came to an end as they fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Netherlands, in the quarter-finals, in Valenciennes

The current European Champions banked on their superior quality to sink the Italians and advance into the semi-finals, where they will face Sweden.

Italy, on their part, will exit this tournament with heads held high having given an exceptional account of them.

Milena Bertolini's clan has exceeded the expectations of everyone by topping a group that included Australia and Brazil, while reaching the quarter-finals - their best result since 1991 and the first time they won a knock-out tie (2-0 vs China). 

Story of the game

Italy made another amendment to their starting XI, allowing us to describe coach Bertolini as 'Tinker woman', as Valentina Bergamaschi of AC Milan replaced Cristiana Girelli of Juventus, suggesting that the latter is suffering from some kind of an injury because she did not even play part of the game at all. 

Italy started in a 4-4-2 shape but as time went by, it translated into a 4-5-1 with Valentina Giacinti as the target player up front. 

Elisa Bartoli, skipper of AS Roma was deployed as a fullback as she and the rest of the defensive had the daunting task to handle Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens and Shanice van de Sanden.

The Dutch trio was part of the fixed starting line-up proposed by Sarina Wiegman, with Jill Roord once again starting on the bench. 

Italy started on the front foot and they could have forged ahead but Bergamaschi's early chance went straight into the hands of Sari van Veenendaal.

As time went by, Netherlands started to grow in confidence but for all the possession they had, they were rarely dangerous with Sara Gama and Elena Linari being on another inspired afternoon in France. 

In the closing stages of the first 45 minutes, Italy had a chance through Giacinti but her effort went wide while Sherida Spitse saw a close-range free-kick blocked by Laura Giuliani.

After the change of ends, Lisa Boattin replaced Bartoli, with Bergamaschi going centrally instead of Aurora Galli in an attempt to have more cover in the midfield.

The Netherlands started to push numbers forward and the goal was starting to become more of a question of matter with chances from Viedema and Jackie Groenen that were testing Italy's backline.

The breakthrough of the game could have been when Daniele Sabatino, another forward, replaced an exhausted Barbara Bonansea, and with two number nines upfront, it did not help Italy's cause in terms of progressing the ball at the other end of the field.

The Netherlands kept on piling pressure until they made it count on minute 70 when Miedema headed home a free-kick past Giuliani's hands. 

Stefanie van der Gragt dashed Italy's hopes of a possible qualification with the second and final goal of the game, with another header to kickstart the Oranje party. 

Takeaways from the game 

For the Netherlands, the semi-final against Sweden will be a repeat of the quarter-final at the European Championships a couple of years ago.

That game was won by the Dutch as they went on to claim the ultimate prize, on home soil. 

A final berth would continue to highlight the massive growth of the women's game in the Netherlands, even though it feels there is always a room for improvement especially at club level.

Italy, on their part, have raised the bar for themselves and hopefully, for them, this experience will serve as a starting point for upcoming major appointments.

After the game, Italy coach Bertolini said, "The women’s game has been discovered and appreciated back home, so it’s a big deal. I believe the girls have greater confidence and awareness of what great players they are."

This is the concept on which the Italian FA needs to work and make sure that this project remains intact and not get disrupted due to lack of attention.

The clubs' investment in the Serie A Femminile has paid dividends and provided another methodology for other European countries in order to strengthen the women's football movement.

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