Women's World Cup Round of 16: Clash of strong defences as Italy faces China

Italy, which last played a knockout match in the World Cup in 1991, will face China for the first time in the tournament.

Cristiana Girelli scored three goals for Italy in its group stage matches.   -  Getty Images

In the penultimate match of the knockouts of the 2019 World Cup, Italy will fight China for a spot in the last-8, at Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, on Tuesday.

This will be the first-ever World Cup meeting between Italy and China - Italy's only previous such meeting with an Asian opponent tracks back to 1991 - beating Chinese Taipei 5-0, in what was Le Azzure's first-ever World Cup game.

Italy qualified to the round of 16 as the table topper of Group C, having pocketed six points from a possible nine. China, on the other hand, progressed as one of the four best third-place finishers, collecting four points.

Italy and China possess strong defences, having conceded two and one goal each in the group stages, but Italy is powerful on the attacking front which could give it the advantage over its Chinese opposition.

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Le Azzure come into the match on the back of a 1-0 loss to Brazil, which bid goodbye to its World Cup hopes after losing to France in extra-time on Sunday. Italy has won three of its last four matches at the World Cup, after winning just two of its first six matches in the competition. However, this will be Italy's first knockout match since 1991- it faced Norway in the quarterfinal that year and bowed out with a 2-3 loss.

In Frace this year, although Italy failed to top its group, it registered seven goals, five of which came in the face-off with debutant Jamaica. Barbara Bonansea, Cristiana Girelli and Aurora Galli have scored least two goals each - the trio could be a threat to China's defence.

China, owing to Li Ying's 40th minute goal against South Africa and a draw against Spain, sealed a berth in the last-16 along with Nigeria, Cameroon and Brazil as the best third-placed teams.

While the Steel Roses conceded just one goal, it also scored just one - becoming the lowest scoring team to proceed to the knockout phase. The team would expect its star player Wang Shuang, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, to put her attacking prowess to use. Shuang could benefit from Wang Shanshan's playmaking in the middle, which could trouble the Italian back-line.

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China, which was the runner-up at the 1999 World Cup, has lost three of its last four knockout stage matches, never emerging further than the last-8 since then.

The onus thus will be on Italy to qualify against a weaker opposition like China. The winner of this match will face the winner of Netherlands vs Japan, on 29 June in Valenciennes.

 

Road to knockouts:

 

ITALY

In its campaign opener, Barbara Bonansea stunned Australia with a last-gasp winner as unfancied Italy took a surprise 2-1 victory in Valenciennes. (Match report)

La Azzure's confidence was further boosted with a mighty 5-0 win against Jamaica as Cristiana Girelli scored Italy's second ever Women's World Cup hat-trick to secure qualification for the last-16. (Match report)

However, Italy lost to Brazil in the final match of the group stage, which saw Marta score a record-breaking 17th World Cup goal, overtaking Miroslav Klose's previous record of 16. (Match report)

 

CHINA PR

China started off the World Cup with a loss at the hands of European giant Germany, with Giulia Gwinn's 20-yard effort giving her side a 1-0 triumph over the Asian side. (Match report)

The Chinese improved their result in Paris as Li Ying's goal five minutes before the break kept them in the contention for the last-16. (Match report)

Later, China and Spain played out a goalless draw in the final group stage match which sealed China's berth in the knockouts. (Match report)

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