France thrash Italy in stirring start to women’s Euro 2022
France brushed off suggestions of dressing room disquiet to smash Italy 5-1 and launch their Euro 2022 campaign in style on Sunday.
Grace Geyoro hit a first half hat-trick as Les Bleues were 5-0 up by the break in Rotherham with Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Delphine Cascarino also on target.
France boss Corinne Diacre controversially left out the experienced Amadine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer from her squad for the tournament.
That move had been questioned as further proof of her inability to handle big characters after criticism of her handling of the 2019 World Cup on home soil.
However, the strength of French women’s football still left Diacre a wealth of talent to choose from and it showed as Italy were blown away at the New York Stadium.
The rise of Juventus as a force in the Champions League and upcoming professionalisation of the women’s Serie A had seen Italy arrive in England with high hopes.
Milena Bertolini’s women even had the first big chance of the game when France goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin produced a stunning stop to turn Barbara Bonansea’s powerful shot behind.
Geyoro opened the floodgates on nine minutes when Italy captain Sara Game failed to clear and the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder swept home a loose ball in the box.
Italy gave the French another gift three minutes later when goalkeeper Laura Giuliani dropped a cross at the feet of Katoto to roll into an empty net.
Katoto hit the post and Cascarino failed to connect with the goal gaping at the back post as the chances continued to flow for France.
Soon the goals did too as Cascarino drilled a low shot from outside the box into the bottom corner.
Katoto then played provider by picking out Geyoro’s perfectly timed run and she kept a cool head to round Giuliani and slot into the empty net.
Geyoro completed her hat-trick before the half-time whistle with another composed finish from Sandie Toletti’s cross.
Italy restore pride
France have never made it beyond the quarter-finals of a women’s Euro and the real test will come in the last eight when they look set to meet one of defending champions the Netherlands or Sweden, who are the highest ranked team in the tournament.
However, they produced the most complete performance of the first week of the tournament to send out a message of intent to the other contenders.
Italy did restore some pride in the second period and reduced the deficit through Martina Piemonte’s towering header.
Despite being taught a lesson, the Azzurre are still expected to make the knockout stages too with Belgium and Iceland to come in Group D.
Their case was aided by a 1-1 draw between Belgium and Iceland earlier in Manchester.
Iceland were left to rue a missed first half penalty at when Berglind Thorvaldsdottir’s spot-kick was saved by Nicky Evrard.
Thorvaldsdottir made amends by heading in at the back post early in the second half.
However, Belgium did take their chance when given a penalty 23 minutes from time as Justine Vanhaevermaet coolly converted.
Iceland are back in Manchester for their next game against Italy on Thursday, while Belgium face France in Rotherham.