Germany booked Italy’s plane tickets home after the reigning champions won 2-1 in Tulburg thanks to a Babett Peter penalty mid-way through the second half.
Italy have won just four out of the previous 26 meetings between the two sides with Germany winning the last two encounters 2-1 and 1-0. Germany, having drawn 0-0 with Sweden in their opening game weren’t under the same kind of pressure as the Italians who lost, surprisingly, to Russia in their first match.
Germany used this to their advantage and made Italy chase the game from the beginning. In the first-half alone Germany held 69% of ball possession and controlled the game as the Italians looked bereft of ideas, with Ilaria Mauro the only player looking like she could create something out of nothing. Germany’s early dominance resulted in a goalkeeping error from Laura Guiliani in the 19th minute. A cross from the right looked fairly innocuous but Guiliani misjudged the flight of the ball and could only finger tip it into Josephine Henning’s path as she headed into an empty net. The game continued to see Germany dominate as Italy failed to get a hold of the ball but they did manage to equalise against the run of play with a nice turn and shot from Mauro surprised German goalkeeper Almuth Schult as the ball flew into the net in between her legs.
If there was one aspect of Germany’s performance you could criticise it would be the lack of killer instinct. Despite dominating the game Germany didn’t really put continuous pressure on the Italian defence and a score line of 1-1 at half time reflected that. Having 25 attempts at goal with 11 on target but relying on a second half penalty to win you the game is not championship winning form. Mandy Islacker is guilty of not taking the chances created for her. Just after half time in the 46th minute, another superb cross from the German right found Islacker in some space but she could only manage to hit the post as frustration began to grow for the reigning champions. Just two minutes later Islacker looked a frustrated character yet again as her header was well saved by Guiliani, who despite the earlier error grew in confidence and stature throughout the game.
However, it took another moment of poor decision making and judgement as Elisa Bartoli fouled Anja Mittag in the penalty area despite her goalkeeper Guiliani looking to have the situation under control. Centre back Peter stepped up to the spot and slotted as Germany took the lead after 66 minutes. Suddenly there appeared to be a bit more urgency in the Italian build up and play, they started everything a little higher up the pitch and they started to create chances. Despite a slight rise in their performance Italy couldn’t stop Germany from creating another goal scoring opportunity. Islacker guilt again of missing another chance to score but she couldn’t connect with enough power and Guiliani made another good save with her left foot. Italy nearly surprised everyone late on with Barbara Bonansea’s free kick catching everyone off guard, everyone except for Schult in the German goal who produced a magnificent save. Perhaps it will be save of the tournament. Germany held on comfortably to take the three points and send the Italians packing.
In the earlier Group B game, Sweden beat Russia 2-0 in a game that saw Sweden dominate from start to finish. Unfortunately, it was a game won by individual errors. Tatyana Shcherbak, who was a revelation in Russia’s 2-1 win over Italy experience a rush of blood to the head as she came to claim a cross but found herself in no-mans land grasping at thin air. Lotta Schelin was delighted to see the ball fall onto her head as she gently guided it around the opposition defence and into the net to make it 1-0. Reacting to mistakes in a positive way is a mentally tough challenge for any footballer but for a 19-year-old goalkeeper it must be really tough. Shcherbak found herself under the spotlight again but not in a positive way. Her poor goal kick allowed Sweden to break quickly through Stina Blackstenius’ strong run into the box as she pushed the ball past Shcherbak and a despairing dive from Anna Kozhnikova to prevent the goal. Kozhnikova could only manage to strike the ball onto the post but the ball still went in to give Sweden an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
After two games Italy are the only team to have been eliminated from the tournament in Group B with both Sweden and Germany holding their Euro 17 future in their own hands. Russia could still qualify for the knockout stages but given that they play a dominant Germany team who haven’t really hit the ground running yet it’s going to be a tough challenge for them. If you’re a betting man I wouldn’t bet against Sweden or Germany to crash out from the tournament during the group stages.