Italy vs. Wales
It’s opening day! It’s not the start of the end, or the end of the beginning. It’s just the start, the very first and it’s always fun at this point. We see the highest ranked team in the tournament, Italy, who finished ninth at the World Cup last year and third in their Open Series Finals tournament this summer, take on Wales, who are ranked nine FIH ranking positions below their opposition. We’ve had the national anthems and now the loud speakers are blearing out ‘Final Countdown’ across the stands. We’re ready to go…
Wales get to push back and we’re away. The teams are both probing each other, attacking almost as a way to defend, tense not to give away possession and aiming to hold the ball in high and wide areas. Wales get the first shot away, but it’s blocked. A few minutes later Italy have a lovely sweeping move up their right flank, largely involving their former Ukrainian international Maryna Vynohradova, forcing a save from Rose Thomas, in the Welsh goal. In the fourteenth minute Italy get the first penalty corner of the match, but in the build up Jasbeer Singh gets a rather heavy knock to the torso, which requires some treatment for her on the run off space on the side of the pitch. The injection for the corner is not clean and neither is the first strike. A second phase shot goes into the side netting. 0 – 0 at the end of the first quarter.
Three minutes into the second quarter and Jasbeer Singh is back on. I had thought that she might have broken her ribs in that earlier challenge, but she’s moving around and getting involved. Five minutes after the restart Wales get their first penalty corner, after Great Britain’s Sarah Jones draws a foul in the attacking quarter. An Italian defender gets sent to the halfway, for breaking early. Sarah Jones injects, it’s sent back to her and she forces a good save from the Italian keeper Natalia Schinoni. A moment later they win another short. There’s change of routine, but this time it’s blocked before reaching the goalie.
Eight minutes played, the ball is shelled into Singh inside the circle, who wins the penalty corner. The Welsh bench is not happy with the decision. The shot comes in but is deflected wide. Free out for Wales. Vynohradova is having a good game. She’s won the ball off Sian French and drivers into the circle to test Rose Thomson. It’s still 0 – 0. A little over three minutes are left of the half and Italy win their third corner. A sweep from Italian skipper Chiara Tiddi at the top of the circle sends it forward to Lara Oviedo, who tips it in at the post. First blood goes to the Italians. At half time, it’s Italy 1 – 0 Wales.
The second half starts and it is becoming noticeable that players are falling over a lot. A local hockey player, who has used this pitch as part of the league set up here in Scotland tells me that the pitch itself is overused and isn’t actually as good as the back pitch used for training. Eight minutes into the second half an attack down the right wing sees another goal for the Italians Emilia Muniti slip the ball past Rose Thomas, double their lead. The team in blue is now looking to control the game, passing the ball around the back, moving the Welsh from side to side. At the end of the third quarter it’s Italy 2 – 0 Wales.
As we enter the final quarter, Wales are showing how organised they can be defensively from the front, making Italy work it out from the back. The only things is, they aren’t getting many chances to score. However, The Italians do work it up their right hand side again and a reverse hit strike from the top right hand side of the circle, from Frederica Carta, sees the ball rifled into the top left hand corner of the goal; 3 – 0. Shortly afterwards, Wales win a short corner. A straight strike from the top of the circle and it’s deflected wide. Four and a half minutes remain and Wales’ Xenna Hughes gets a clatter in the circle. Another penalty corner for the team in red. Hughes takes a sweep and wins another corner. This time it’s deflected wide for a 23 metre restart. They work it to the top of the circle and thump the ball at the keeper. It spills off of her pads and touch it over the line from close range. Izzy Webb gets one back. The score is now Italy 3 – 1 Wales and that’s how it ends.