Italy coach Milena Bertolini said the nation is "falling in love" with her team after Valentina Giacinti and Aurora Galli fired the Azzurre into the quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup in a 2-0 win over China.
Bertolini's side may not be among the favourite to win the tournament and but it dominated the opening 20 minutes against China, with Giacinti's quality too much for the Steel Roses to handle.
The game became scrappier as China battled for a way back into contention and Bertolini acknowledged her side can play better, while acknowledging tougher tasks lie ahead with Japan or the Netherlands awaiting Italy in Saturday's quarterfinal.
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"It's an incredible result," Bertolini told Rai Sport. "This was a difficult match and perhaps we didn’t play very well, but we were clinical and brought home a very important result.
"There are many aspects to football and a solid defence is one of them. We all helped each other out and the girls gave their all.
"It is a gift to me, but a gift for all of us that we've given ourselves. I'm happy that the Italians are falling in love with this women's team, because we need their support as the tournament gets tougher and the bar is raised."
China coach Xiuquan Jia apologised to his country's fans after his players were sent home having scored just one goal in its four matches at the World Cup.
Defeats to Germany and Italy ended China's campaign and although it earned 1-0 win over South Africa and a goalless draw with Spain, Jia accepted improvements are required.
"We've done a good job. We need to do much better," Jia said.
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"We couldn't win the game and I apologise to all the Chinese fans. We understood Italy very well and it was a good game. This is football. Whoever makes mistakes first, has to pay.
"The World Cup is a big stage and it makes us realise our shortcomings. We can't dwell on the past or any past glories.
"Our girls have given their best. We are fully aware of our potential. We will reflect on everything well once we return home."
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