Italy fight back to stun Australia with late goal


Italy fought back from a goal down to beat Australia in stoppage time and pull off a big shock at the end of the best contest of the Women's World Cup.

Juventus star Barbara Bonansea struck both goals in the second half for the Italians, who have qualified for the finals for the first time in 20 years, winning it from close range in the fifth minute of added time.

Australia captain Sam Kerr had earlier given the Group C favourites a first-half lead as she tucked in the rebound after her penalty was saved.
The two sides are joined in the group by Brazil and Jamaica, who meet in Grenoble later on Sunday.

The Azzurri celebrated joyously at the full-time whistle in France's north-eastern city of Valenciennes, having not played in a match at the World Cup finals since being eliminated in the group stage in 1999.

They are ranked 15th in the world, nine places below Australia, who many commentators have tipped to have a strong chance of going all the way to the final in Lyon on 7 July.

"It is wonderful. The expectation has risen around the Italian national team and to crown this anticipation with a victory is superb," said Italy boss Milena Bertolini.

"It's a beautiful feeling. These are women with a lot of technical qualities and they play really well.

"When it comes to teamwork, they are truly the strongest team at this tournament and that's what will make the difference - team spirit. It made the difference today. We suffered a lot, but the Italian team spirit came through."

Kerr, who is the all-time record goalscorer in both the United States and Australia's top professional leagues, opened the scoring as she tucked in the rebound when her first-half penalty was saved, after she was brought down by Italy skipper Sara Gama.

It was her first goal at the World Cup finals in her ninth appearance over three tournaments, and she celebrated in a similar style to former Everton star Tim Cahill, the Australia men's team legend, as she playfully punched the corner flag.

Italy had two goals correctly ruled out for offside - one of them extremely narrowly - either side of Bonansea's equaliser, a goal the Italians were gifted.

A defensive mistake from Australia centre-back Clare Polkinghorne handed possession to Italy before Bonansea took full advantage, weaving in to the penalty area before getting past Alanna Kennedy and slotting home.

Australia's Kennedy then headed just wide at the far post before later nearly turning in to her own net, and Gama did well to block from Kerr in second-half stoppage time as Australia pushed for a winner. 

However, moments later Bonansea snatched the points at the other end.

The Matildas had lost both of the final two warm-up games, conceding eight goals against a combination of the holders, the United States, and the European champions, the Netherlands and they will need to bounce back quickly from this defeat. 

They face Brazil in Montpellier on Thursday before meeting Jamaica in Grenoble on 18 June.

Australia head coach Ante Milicic, who is only on a short-term contract for the World Cup, said: "We need to quickly regroup and focus on the Brazil game. 

We created enough chances to win the game but at the crucial times we didn't capitalise on our possession.

"When we played our football we looked decent, but it was only in patches. Unfortunately we were undone by a scenario where our shape wasn't what it needed to be. We're very disappointed."

Italy face the Jamaicans in Reims on Friday, before a potentially decisive match against Brazil the following Tuesday, back in Valenciennes.

Two teams will qualify automatically from each group and progress to the last 16, as well as the three best third-placed sides from the six groups of four.

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