There were more than a few eyebrows raised when Italy’s starting lineup for Thursday’s Group D matchup against Iceland came out and the two stalwarts in attack, Barbara Boansea and Cristiana Girelli, were nowhere to be found. Sure, Italy was coming off a rough start to Women’s Euro 2022, but it wasn’t necessarily enough down to just those two playing poorly by any means.
Yet as Italy looked a 1-0 halftime deficit in the after trailing only three minutes in, there was Bonansea adjusting her trademark pink headband and coming on to begin the second half.
And boy are we glad she did.
It was a Bonansea-inspired comeback for the Azzurre, as the Juventus Women winger’s assist to Valentina Bergamaschi allowed Italy to pull even with Iceland in what turned out to be a 1-1 draw. It was a result that kept Italy’s hopes of making the knockout rounds alive, but still very much a situation in which they will need some help on the final day of the Group D play on Monday when France faces this same Iceland squad that sits a point ahead of the Azzurre after the first to group stage matches.
And because of Bonansea’s efforts, Italy was able to get a point. A very, very valuable point.
Barbara Bonansea's game by numbers vs. Iceland:— Squawka (@Squawka) July 14, 2022
100% take-on success
3 shots on target
3 duels won
2 chances created
Making an impact from the bench. #WEURO2022 https://t.co/Q395XDJb2Z
Although, when looking at it, Italy probably should have come away from more.
As was pretty much expected coming out of the loss to France last week, Bertolini made changes to the starting lineup in hopes of giving her team some sort of jolt and capitalize off the positive second half in Sunday’s group stage opener. The thing was, two of those changes involved totally revamping the attack, with Bonansea and Girelli starting from the bench. Not that the moves were a total mistakes as Italy was able to create chances in the first half as Iceland went into a defensive block, but Italy was missing that bite that somebody like Bonansea and/or Girelli can bring to the attack. (Albeit in different ways.)
That, thankfully, all changed when Bonansea came on to begin the second half.
The left wing essentially became where Bonansea was starting a ton of Italy’s best attacking movements. Not only did she assist Bergamaschi’s game-tying goal in the 62nd minute, but Bonansea nearly scored a pair of goals herself, including smashing a shot off the left upright that would have given Italy the lead with 15 minutes to go.
It was the Bonansea show in the second half — and it makes you wonder what could have been if she had played from the start against Iceland rather than coming on for 45 minutes.
It’s a different kind of “What if” game that we’re going to play following this result rather than what happened against France when one moment preceded a whole lot of terrible events — or in this case, a lot of goals — but it’s very much unavoidable with how well Bonansea played and how she was involved in just about everything good Italy did after halftime.
Something tells me Bonansea — and Girelli to a lesser extent — will be starting against Belgium come Monday with Italy’s tournament future at stake.
As much as Bertolini can be criticized for leaning a little too heavy on the veterans, this is very much an easy decision — you put Bonansea in the starting lineup and hope she cooks just like she did against Iceland.
It will all come down to what Italy does against Belgium in the group stage finale. A little help from France — yeah, that sounds weird based on what happened a few days ago — wouldn’t be the worst development in the world, either.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- As much as Bonansea and Girelli not starting was a surprise to many, here’s something that’s also rather surprising knowing that Italy has needed help in both of its games thus far: Agenese Bonfantini has played all of zero minutes at these Euros.
- Seriously, what do we have to do to see Agnese cook?
- Like, if there ever was a game where Bonansea and Bonfantini could raise absolute hell on the wings, it was this one. Bertolini got the first part of that right, but it’s still somewhat of a shock that Bonfantini is essentially the only attacker that Italy hasn’t used so far.
- Like, Daniela Sabatino seems cool and all, but I’m not sure that bringing her on in the dying minutes was the way to go when you’ve got a game-changing option like Bonfantini on the bench.
- I hate to write this and hated seeing it, but guess what happened right before Iceland scored? Yeah, it was a missed clearance by Sara Gama. That’s two in two games for Cap, and I’m not sure that there’s any other way to describe her tournament showing thus far as than just simply not very good at all.
- Looking at those numbers that Bonansea recorded in one half of play makes me smile.
- And then it makes me grumble when I remember she didn’t play in the first half because she started from the bench. Them’s the breaks.
- Here is Arianna Caruso being a mood.
- Lisa Boattin is very good from dead ball situations on a regular basis. She just wasn’t very good at all from dead ball situations in this game. That hurts when you’re pushing for a game-tying or go-ahead goal and winning free kicks and corners. Instead of dangerous crosses, Boattin’s service left a lot to be desired.
- You know what Italy’s midfield misses so far this tournament? Valentina Cernoia. Stupid, stupid COVID-19.
- I don’t know about you guys, but I sure would like Italy to stop conceding goals in the first half and subsequently be forced to chase the game most of the time.
- Iceland had one shot on goal. It was their goal.
- Italy outshot Iceland 21-9.
- Seriously, Bonansea nearly outshot Iceland on her own.
- Although, I gotta admit, Iceland had a couple of really good chances to score and retake the lead after Italy tied the game and I nearly had a very different kind of tone in this post.
- There was especially one chance at the back post in the last couple of minutes and it nearly made my heart skip. Italy thoroughly dominated the second half and to almost give up the game-winning goal after Iceland barely had any attacking movements in the second half, that would have been bad.
- Italy’s midfield is better with Martina Rosucci in it and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
- Just beat Belgium on Monday and everything will be forgotten. OK, maybe not everything because that loss to France was bad, but getting to the knockout rounds would be nice.