Saturday, February 24, 2024

History! Italy women cause Hockey World Cup shock over China

Storico! proclaimed a jubilant Italian media on Sunday.

Italy put 42 years in the Women’s Hockey World Cup wilderness behind them in sensational style to beat China in their opening pool game on Sunday. It came hours before Francesco Molinari did the same for Italian golf at The Open Championship.

The lowest-ranked side (17) at this World Cup looked anything but as they rolled over a lacklustre but inexperienced China 3-0 as the Asian nation failed to capitalise on their overall domination.

A brilliant first-half strike from Valentina Braconi – one of 10 Argentinian-born players in the Italian squad – set up further goals from Lara Oviedo and Giuliana Ruggieri after the break to hand The Azzurre one of their greatest wins.

Italy’s last World Cup campaign came in 1976 and their post-match celebrations at the Olympic Park underlined their passion after a committed display against a top 10 side.

They now have put themselves into contention of qualifying for the cross over matches, in a group also featuring Korea and the Netherlands.

Italy’s Eugenia Bianchi said: “We are feeling great. We were convinced that we could do it and this was the beginning that we were expecting. It’s awesome.

“Every goal for us was an incredible feeling. Our main objective was to enjoy it and to do what we do inside the field and I think we showed that.”

China had more shots, possession and penetration but lacked spark in the press and couldn’t break down Italy.

Braconi’s opener followed a clinical backpass through the legs from Elisabetta Pacella before a lovely lifted shot into the net.

Their second came via a penalty corner and the Italians showed teams on the opening day how to convert (when only six from 28 were converted) as Oviedo deflected in.

Italy’s captain Chiara Tiddi told BT Sport: “It was hot but we were focused. We knew we were in a low posiion in the ranking but with a lot of pressure we can do a lot of things.”

China’s coach Jami Mulder – the German who is overseeing a young squad – said: “3-0 down and a few days off, I couldn’t think of anything nicer.”

Women’s Hockey World Cup shirts: 16 nations ranked and assessed

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