Though Venezuela and Italy both missed out on a place in a FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup final for the first time in their histories, the match for third place is a wholly new experience for them nevertheless, with Venezuela the first South American side to reach the last four of the competition. Both teams have plenty of incentive, therefore, to go all out for bronze on Friday.
Match for third place
Venezuela-Italy, Estadio Nacional, 4 April, 14:00
Having failed to negotiate the first round in 2010, Venezuela are the revelations of the tournament. The South Americans advanced from the group phase with a 100 per cent record and then disposed of Canada in the last eight, their superb run only coming to an end with a 4-1 semi-final defeat to much-fancied Japan, a game in which the Venezuelans at least had the consolation of becoming the first side to pierce the Japanese rearguard.
La Vinotinto rounded off their flawless group phase with a 1-0 win over Italy, secured by a goal from Deyna Castellano, the leading scorer at Costa Rica 2014. In striking up a formidable partnership with Gabriela Garcia, Castellano has proved a constant menace for opposing defences, and the first task awaiting Enrico Sbardella’s side will be to blunt Venezuela’s two-pronged spearhead. The South Americans have also caught the eye with their speed on the counter and long-range shooting, qualities that will be put to the test against an Italy side well versed in the art of closing down opposing forwards.
The Italians have shown great courage on this their FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup debut and have proved awkward opponents throughout. After opening up with two wins they fell to that narrow defeat to the Venezuelans, a setback they will no doubt have learned from. Sbardella’s charges showcased their defensive abilities and unflappability in holding off Ghana in the quarter-finals, a game they won in a shoot-out. Central to their progress so far have been goalkeeper Francesca Durante and midfielder Manuela Giugliano, a tireless presence all over the pitch.
Whatever the outcome of this match and in spite of their pre-tournament status as outsiders, both sides have already shown what they are capable of, each possessing a clutch players who would appear to have lengthy international careers ahead of them.
Player to watch
Despite an energetic performance, Italy’s Gloria Marinelli was unable to find the back of the net against the Spain in the semi-finals, with the post preventing her from scoring a goal that would have altered the complexion of the match. The No11 has made a sterling contribution to Italy’s impressive run at Costa Rica 2014, scoring twice so far, a tally she will be hoping to add to against Venezuela.
6 - The number of goals Venezuela’s Deyna Castellano has scored in five matches. The Vinotinto striker is the third player in the tournament’s history to reach that tally, after USA’s Vicki DiMartino in 2008 and Japan’s Kumi Yokoyama in 2010.
“First of all, we need to put the defeat to Spain behind us and focus 100 percent on the match for third place. I don’t want to underestimate Venezuela, but I feel confident because we put in a good performance against them in the group phase, even though we had quite a few of our first-choice players on the bench. We’re hoping to end the competition on a high,” Italy midfielder Frederica Cavicchia.
Japan-Spain (Estadio Nacional, San Jose, 17.00)