Italy, Brazil claim victories that were long time coming
Italy upset Australia, 2-1, in Valenciennes, and Brazil and England were victorious, as expected, on Day 3 of the Women’s World Cup. The Italians won in their first WWC match since 1999 on Sunday, keeping European nations unbeaten in the tournament. Brazil, playing without Marta (thigh injury), blanked Jamaica, 3-0, in Grenoble. And the Three Lionesses held on in Nice for a 2-1 win over Scotland, possibly the best of the teams making their WWC debut.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) again played a factor, usually leading to the correct officiating decision, but causing excessive delays and interruptions.
■ Barbara Bonansea converted both goals for Italy, Le Azzurre’s first in the WWC since Patrizia Panico and Paola Zanni scored in a 2-0 win over Mexico at Foxboro Stadium on June 27, 1999. Italy coach Milena Bertolini boldly went for the win, going with four attackers by inserting Daniela Sabatino and Valentina Giacinti in the second half.
■ Bonansea had an early score negated for offside, but it took referee Melissa Borjas nearly three minutes to confirm the call and resume play. Borjas awarded two minutes added time for the first half. In the second half, Borjas gave five minutes, a possible makeup addition — and Italy capitalized as Bonansea broke the deadlock 4 minutes, 30 seconds after the 90.
■ Borjas appeared to be receiving an earful from the VAR control center and did well not to seem too distracted. She was also hampered by a FIFA directive for linesmen (Assistant Referees) to “wait and see” on offside calls, leading to unreasonably long continuations of sequences that are, in effect, dead. Borjas became the first woman to referee in the Honduran men’s Liga Nacional and can probably handle difficult circumstances without this much “technical support.”
■ Brazil did not seem affected by a difficult pre-tournament runup — the Canarinhas lost nine successive games after a 2-1 win over Japan at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., on July 29, 2018. But Brazil will likely need Marta, 33, injured in a May 25 training session, to ensure advancing out of Group C.
■ Cristiane, a 34-year-old forward, scored all three goals, upping her career total to 93 for Brazil. Formiga, 41, who has participated in every WWC since 1995, held down the Brazil midfield, a crushing first-half tackle on Cheyna Matthews (Lynn, Mass.) showing her combativeness.
■ Though Jamaica only recently cobbled together a group of players, the team displayed promise. Former Boston College defender Alyssa Swaby surrendered a penalty kick via a handling violation, but Sydney Schneider saved Andressa’s 38th-minute attempt. Swaby — whose sister, Chantelle, was also in the Reggae Girlz lineup — nearly scored at the back post off a second-half corner kick what would have been the first goal for a Caribbean nation in the WWC. Jamaica’s defensive inexperience was exposed. On the opening goal, Cristiane was left isolated on left back Den-Den Blackwood and easily headed home. Late in the game, University of Central Florida center back Konya Plummer was fortunate to escape a second caution for a reckless challenge in the penalty area.
■ England hardly looked the part of a championship contender, partly because Scotland remained composed and appeared to improve as the match went on. Nikita Parris’ 14th-minute penalty kick opened the scoring, the PK awarded after a VAR review detected a Nicola Docherty handling violation. Ellen White’s 40th-minute score seemed to clinch the result, but Claire Emslie’s 79th-minute goal revived the Scots. Emslie, a Manchester City winger via Florida Atlantic University, displayed excellent finishing technique, bouncing the close-range shot past a sliding defender and goalkeeper Karen Bardsley off a Lisa Evans assist.
What to watch for Monday:
■ Argentina vs. Japan in Paris. Japan, which won the 2011 WWC and lost to the US in the ’15 final, has a 4-0-0 record all-time against Argentina, 0-6-0 in the 2003 and ’07 WWC. The Nadeshiko’s 22-year-old Yui Hasegawa, a 5-foot-1-inch playmaker, led the way in a 2-2 draw with the US in the SheBelieves Cup opener in January.
■ Cameroon vs. Canada in Montpellier. Canada’s Christine Sinclair has scored nine goals in the WWC, including one in a 3-1 win over Japan at Gillette Stadium in 2003, her first finals appearance.
■ Local ties: Former Boston Breakers include Canada’s Allysha Chapman and Adriana Leon, and Japan’s Aya Sameshima, who was nicknamed “Samy” (Japanese for “shark”) when she played in Boston. Canada’s Stephanie Labbe was named Big East Conference goalkeeper of the year for UConn in 2008.