Girelli hat-trick, Galli brace secure Le Azzurre World Cup last-16 berth - GulfToday

Girelli hat-trick, Galli brace secure Le Azzurre World Cup last-16 berth

Women World Cup

Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi (centre) celebrates after scoring against Scotland during their Women’s World Cup Group D match on Friday. Agence France-Presse

Cristiana Girelli fired Italy into the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup on Friday with a controversial VAR-assisted hat-trick that helped see off hapless Jamaica 5-0 and put them top of Group C.

Italy join France and Germany in the knockout stages following the Juventus striker’s treble and a late brace from Aurora Galli, which gives Milena Bertolini’s side a perfect six points -- three more than both Australia and Brazil -- and puts them through with a game to spare.

However the penalty with which Girelli opened her tournament account caused controversy, with referee Anna-Marie Keighley pointing to the spot after a VAR check in the 10th minute for a what looked like a soft foul on Barabara Bonansea.

Girelli then missed the spot-kick, but Keighley allowed her to retake following another VAR check that Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider had encroached. The 29-year-old made no mistake the second time round -- two minutes after the original penalty was given -- before doubling Italy’s lead 13 minutes later when she bundled home Bonansea’s flick-on from a corner.

Girelli became just the second Italian woman to score a World Cup hat-trick just after the break when she beat Schneider to a looping cross.

Substitute Galli then completed the rout, first firing home a long-range effort in the 71st minute before neatly taking Manuela Giugliano’s through ball and rounding Schneider to slot home the fifth 10 minutes later.

Later on Friday England look to join the Italians in the last 16 with a win over Argentina.

In the first match played on Friday, Mana Iwabuchi set Japan on their way to a 2-1 victory over Scotland in Rennes as the 2011 winners gave their women’s World Cup campaign a shot in the arm.

Yuika Sugasawa also converted a penalty as the Nadeshiko closed on qualifying for the last 16, just four days after a disappointing display in a goalless draw against outsiders Argentina.

Asako Takakura’s team, ranked seventh in the world, will now go into their final Group D game against England next week with a chance of topping the section, which would ensure a far more favourable draw in the last 16.

Scotland got a goal back late on through substitute Lana Clelland, but the result will be less disappointing than the nature of their performance, as they offered nothing going forward until it was too late, just like in their opening defeat at the hands of England. As they had done in that match, they found themselves 2-0 down at the interval before a crowd of more than 13,000 at Roazhon Park, including a large contingent from Scotland and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

A poor headed clearance by captain Rachel Corsie led to Japan taking the lead midway through the first half as Iwabuchi sent a shot high into the net from the edge of the area, over goalkeeper Lee Alexander but underneath the crossbar.

It took a Kim Little goal-line clearance to prevent Japan skipper Saki Kumagai from making it 2-0, but Japan were handed the chance to increase their lead in the 37th minute when Sugasawa felt a slight pull from Corsie in the box and went down.

Sugasawa duly dispatched the penalty, and Hina Sugita then hit the bar from close range.

Scotland did better in the second half, helped by the introduction of Claire Emslie, who had scored their goal against England, and some good saves from Alexander.

However, Erin Cuthbert hit the frame of the goal from close in and their appeals for a penalty for a handball in the box by Risa Shimizu were waved away by the Ethiopian referee.

Clelland, of Fiorentina, did find the net from 25 yards with two minutes to go, but it proved to be a mere consolation, and their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 at their debut World Cup are slim before a final group game against Argentina in Paris.

In Thursday’s late match, a solitary strike by Li Ying gave China a 1-0 victory over South Africa in Paris and ensured that Germany and hosts France are guaranteed qualifiers for the last 16 of the women’s World Cup.

Li, who was brought into the Chinese starting line-up following their opening 1-0 loss to the Germans in Group B, got in front of Bambanani Mbane in the box to turn in Zhang Rui’s delivery five minutes before half-time.

China almost scored again moments later when Wang Shanshan’s header at a corner came off the underside of the bar and bounced down, not quite crossing the line in its entirety.

Agence France-Presse