I’m not sure if a trip to the New York Stadium was the start of a new season or the end of the last one.
The game I went to see was France v Italy in the Women’s Euros 2022 group match.
8541 people had turned out on a glorious Sunday evening with the skies beautifully blue only broken by a few aeroplane vapour trails, the pitch was looking like a billiard table but bright green and even at 8.00 pm it was a balmy 27 degrees.
What was striking was the almost 50-50 split of male and female fans. The last women’s game I attended was a League cup final at Bramall Lane where the split was 80% female most of whom were under 18. That game was a very dull affair but this had great promise with France unbeaten in 15 and ranked No3 in the world and Italy ranked No 14 and twice previous winners of the competition. The French fans by far out numbered the Italians which was evident in their singing of the La Marseillaise.
France 5 Italy 1
France looked strong from the start but if Italy’s Barbara Bonanasea could have scored in the third minute when through on goal we may have witnessed a completely different contest. It was France’s goalkeeper, Pauline Peyraud-Magnin who stopped her and who looked world class all night.
After this scare France took complete control with their two centre backs dominating and making some beautiful wide passes that were controlled on the run enabling the French team to get past the defenders and instead of crossing cut in and either shoot on goal or tee up a team mate. By twelve minutes France were comfortably two nil ahead and a fan next me said that this will probably be the most skillful team to play at the New York Stadium in the forthcoming season. No one in the ground would have argued with that.
France continued to dominate and it was a surprise that some dogged defending kept them out. After 30 minutes Italy started to get more into the game and for 10 minutes seemed to take control. Whether France were just taking a breather they raced back to score three more goals in the 7 minutes up to half time. Of the five goals Grace Geyoro had scored three of them, a well taken hat-trick.
Everyone sat back expecting France to come strong in the second half but they seemed to relax and threatened the Italy goal but never achieved their first half dominance. This may have been due to them using their full five substitutes to give as many players as possible a run out. Italy too used all of their substitutes and seemed to be livelier and more committed and Martina Piemonte headed home a consolation goal with 15 minutes left. Italy’s task could have been harder had VAR not over-ruled the referee’s red card for Sara Gama after what appeared a very strong tackle. The referee had taken her aside in the first half and warned her about some harsh tackles and if she has shown her the yellow card then the Italian would not have remained on the field.
A beautiful evening topped of by some beautiful football skills flowing mainly from France. They are definitely one of the tournaments favorites but did leave a question mark over their lapse half way through the first half and their tailing off in the second.