Italy end Ghana’s journey at U17 World Cup
Penalty shoot-out heroics from Francesca Durante saw Italy picking a semi-finals slot at the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup at the expense of Ghana.
The Europeans came out top from the spot 4-3 after the game had ended 2-2 in normal time.
Gloria Marinelli canceled out an early goal from Jane Ayieyam before Manuela Giugliano gave the Italians the lead from the spot. It took over 70 minutes for the game to see another goal but it was well worth the wait as Ernestina Abambila levelled the score with a wonderful free kick to take the game into penalties, the Italians at that moment ruing a missed penalty in the second half.
The game started quite well for both sides, especially the Italians who seemed to settle quicker. In the 4th minute, however, the Ghanaians came to life with the opening goal of the game, striker Ayieyam placing her header beyond the reach of Durante from a well-placed Niber-Lawrence cross. The winger had been fastest to a loose ball on the flank, swinging it in first time to the back post and on to the head of the Ghanaian number 3.
The Italians were not behind for long, claiming their equaliser in the 8th minute through Marinelli who met a long distance free kick with an unstoppable looping header over the head of goalkeeper Azume Adams. The game continued in its all action style as Italy searched for the lead, they almost got it in the 14th minute, but Adams was quick off her line to meet Marinelli resulting in a clash that looked worrying at first glance.
From the resulting corner, Italy won themselves a penalty for what seemed to be a foul on Piemonte. Giugliano stepped up to complete the comeback. The goal seemed to stun the Black Maidens allowing the Italians to continue their bright start to the game. With two minutes to half time and the Ghanaians finally looking like finding their feet, Italy nearly had a third as another good ball from Giugliano found Marinelli on the wing and with only Piemonte to aim for in the middle produced a cross, which caught Azume out but bounced off the crossbar and out.
The second half started quite well for the Maidens as they came close a number of times to finding that equaliser, they nearly went two behind again as another Piemonte won her side a penalty in the 51st minute for a late Adams challenge. This time, however, Giugliano’s effort failed to find the target, the short-haired midfielder blazing her effort over the crossbar. The Ghanaians had a penalty shout of their own turned down by the referee a few minutes later though replays showed Boattin’s hand had come into contact with the ball before a trailing foot had caught Ayieyam though the strike seemed to wrap her foot around the Italian captain’s trailing foot.
The Ghanaians continued their search for a goal and thought they had found it in the 78th minute but Anane was adjudged to have been in an offside position. With the game running out of time, it looked as if the Italians will see out the result but the complexion of the clash changed in the 90th minute when a well struck free kick from Abambila drew the Ghanaians level and took the game to the dreaded penalty shootouts.
Ghana converted their first penalty through Ayieyam, and Italy stumbled as Boattin’s effort was saved. Italy caught up in the second round when Ghana missed but Giugliano levelled matters for the Europeans. Vida Opuku converted Ghana’s penalty and Flaminia Simonetti scored Italy’s third-round kick, but it all fell apart for the Africans in the fourth round when Abambila missed her shot and Annamaria Serturini put the Italians ahead. Gladys Amfobea scored Ghana’s third penalty but Italy secured passage to the semi-finals when Marta Vergani slotted home to seal the 4-3 win.