Italy stunned South Africa with a penalty shootout win to ensure they will play off for fifth and sixth place, condemning Giles Bonnet’s side to the wooden spoon match tomorrow.
A penalty stroke from Giuliana Ruggieri in the tenth minute had looked like it would give the Azzurri a win in normal time, however a last minute penalty corner from Pietie Coetzee took the game to a shootout, but Italy were not to be denied.Italy have punched above their world ranking throughout this tournament and spurred on by their classy captain Chiara Tiddi they put in another impressive display.
South Africa were first to threaten as a lovely weighted pass from Coetzee set Sulette Damons free but she couldn’t beat Martina Chirico from close range.
Italy forced a couple of penalty corners but Tiddi’s straight strikes did not beat Sanani Mangisa in the South African goal.
Italy were causing SA some problems at the back and in the tenth minute Mangisa brought down the Italy forward to concede a penalty stroke. Ruggieri stepped up and made no mistake from the spot to make it 1-0.
Italy almost doubled their lead minutes later as Valentina Braconi fed Elisbeta Pacella whose shot came back off the post with Mangisa beaten.
After the break South Africa went close through a Coetzee deflection but Italy were defending very well to keep chances to a premium. Coetzee remained the most likely to score and she produced a lovely run past two defenders only to see Chirico come up with an excellent save with her right foot.
South Africa’s plight was becoming more and more desperate as time ran out. Again, Tiddi impressed, breaking up the play in front of the defence and distributing the ball with an air of composure about her.
Shelley Russell tried her luck with a high reverse stick effort but Chirico repelled it with her gloves.
With one minute left on the clock, Coetzee finally beat the goalkeeper from a penalty corner. South Africa’s record goalscorer found the target via the inside of the post to save their blushes.
And so to penalties: Dirkie Chamberlain was up first and failed to beat the goalkeeper. Tiddi went first for Italy and slapped into the bottom corner from the edge of the D. Chirico saved from Jade Mayne and Mangisa saved from Ana Bertarini to keep the score at 1-0.
Marsha Cox scored to level it up before Dalila Mirabella restored Italy’s lead. Tarryn Bright missed too allowing Ruggieri to calmly round the goalkeeper and seal the win, 3-1 to Italy.
Italy were overjoyed at the final whistle, once again as they have all week, they played far higher than their ranking would suggest they could. For South Africa, questions have to be asked of their performance. A team with such pace and skill going forwards has looked timid and reluctant to play to their strengths this week. South Africa will play the loser of Spain vs USA, whilst Italy await the winner of the same game.