Ghana momentarily kept their FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup dreams alive when Ernestina Abambila scored in the 90th minute to level the score at 2-2 and force Italy into penalties to decide their quarter-final match-up. The Europeans came out top from the spot 4-3 to set up a date with Spain in the semi-final.
Ghana made a dream start to the match, scoring less than four minutes into the encounter with the game’s first shot on goal. Naomi Anima intercepted an Italian clearance and sent the ball wide out to Lily Niber Lawrence, who then put in an exceptional cross, finding Jane Ayieyam at the far post waiting to head past Francesca Durante.
Italy were not startled by the Ghanaians’ quick start, however, and equalised four minutes later. Lisa Boattin sent in a free-kick from midfield and Gloria Marinelli rose above the crowd inside Ghana’s penalty area to send a looping header back across goal and beyond the reach of Azume Adams, who could only watch in disbelief as the ball settled into the back of the net.
The Europeans capitalised on a chance to double their lead when they were awarded a penalty in the 17th minute and Manuela Giugliano made no mistake firing past the diving Adams. Italy missed a penalty in the second-half, which would have likely put the game out of reach. However, Ghana continued to press on and Abambila rewarded the Africans’ perseverance with a well-struck free-kick in the 90th minute that slipped just over the Italian wall and past Durante’s outstretched arms. The referee ended regulation mere seconds later, forcing penalties to decide a winner.
Ghana converted their first penalty through Ayieyam, and Italy stumbled as Boattin’s effort was saved. Italy caught up in the second round when Ghana missed but Giugliano levelled matters for the Europeans. Vida Opuku converted Ghana’s penalty and Flaminia Simonetti scored Italy’s third-round kick, but it all fell apart for the Africans in the fourth round when Abambila missed her shot and Annamaria Serturini put the Italians ahead. Gladys Amfobea scored Ghana’s third penalty but Italy secured passage to the semi-finals when Marta Vergani slotted home to seal the 4-3 win.
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