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Italy Is Captivating A Nation With Brilliant Football, Passionate Anthem Singing

Women’s soccer in Italy has long taken a back seat to the men’s game. The Azzurri have won four World Cups, a mark only bettered by Brazil, but the women’s game has never come close to reaching those heights.

But things are changing.

Italy made routine work of China for a 2-0 win in the round of 16 of the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday, reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 1991. The Azzurre have been one of the best surprises of the Women’s World Cup, their first appearance since 1999, and they’re captivating their home country. They can reach the semifinals with a win over either the Netherlands or Japan on Saturday.

After Italy beat China, a third victory this tournament, the Azzurre made up the top five trending topics on Twitter.

Few teams can boast a better 2019 Women’s World Cup so far than Italy. The Azzurre won the brutally tough Group C over Australia and Brazil, only losing 1-0 to Brazil on a Marta penalty, to reach the round of 16 with a goal-difference only bettered by France, Germany and the U.S. 

The Italians have been electric on attack. Not afraid to be called offside, the players are always looking to get in behind the opposing team’s defense and are a constant threat to score whether or not they have the ball. Italy is the only team besides the U.S. that has two players who have scored at least three goals (the USWNT has three). 

Most inspiringly, the Azzurre sing “Il Canto degli Italiani,” the national anthem, like true students of the Gianluigi Buffon School Of Loving Your Country — and the complete foil to Megan Rapinoe

Led by defender Elena Linari, the Italians sing their anthem like their lives depend on it.

That’s one way to get your country to take notice.

The other is to kick ass on the pitch, and the Azzurre are doing that quite well so far in France.

Italy vs China Highlights

Perhaps roused by the anthem itself, Italy began Tuesday’s match on the front foot, dominating China from the opening whistle. That superiority paid off in the 10th minute with a goal from Valentina Giacinti, but it was called back (correctly) for offside.

Anyone who has played FIFA 19 significantly has noticed how your player will score 100 percent of the time when he or she is offside. That’s kind of how Italy is playing at this Women’s World Cup, having been called offside its fair share of times. 

Eventually, the Azzurre got their goal, one that wasn’t called back for offside.

Again it was Giacinti, who netted her first goal of the tournament in the 15th minute, though teammate Elisa Bartoli took a nasty cleat to the shin to help set up the strike.

China eventually grew into the game after the goal and had some long spells of dominance in the first half, but Italy always looked dangerous. 

Early in the second half, pressure from the Azzurre paid off when a turnover was followed by a brilliant long-range strike from Aurora Galli, who now has three goals this tournament.

With the two-goal lead, Italy did what Italians are all taught to do from birth: see out the clean sheet with supreme confidence and comfort. 

Italy will look to continue its remarkable tournament on Saturday against either the Netherlands or Japan. 

Full Italy vs China Highlights

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