VALENCIENNES, France (Reuters) – Marta’s second-half penalty sent Brazil into the last 16 of the women’s World Cup with a 1-0 win against Italy on Tuesday that ensured they finished as one of the best third-placed sides.
Marta, the only player to score at five different World Cups, converted a spot kick in the 74th minute as Brazil finished third in Group C on six points, level with Italy, who top the group on goal difference.
It was Marta’s 17th World Cup goal, moving her ahead of Germany’s Miroslav Klose to become the outright top scorer in both the men’s and women’s game.
Australia beat Jamaica 4-1 to finish second in the group, also on six points, but ahead on goals scored of Brazil, who face a clash with either hosts France or Germany for a place in the quarter-finals.
“We were obviously targeting the first place in the group, but this is a World Cup after all. Now it doesn’t matter who will cross our path. We can’t choose it,” said Marta. “We have cleared a goal of ours: qualifying. Now it’s a matter to get ready and to try to go further.”
Italy coach Milena Bertolini told a new conference: “It’s hard to say it’s a nice defeat, however we are pleased to come through as group winners. It was very much unexpected as our goal was to just make it past the group phase.”
Italy looked physically superior, but it was Brazil who had the biggest early chance when Debinha flicked on a corner kick and forced Italy keeper Laura Giuliani to make a point-blank save.
Cristiana Girelli fired home after controlling superbly in the area, but the effort was disallowed for offside in the 29th minute.
Italy went close again in the 40th minute when Barbara Bonansea’s volley at the end of a quick counter-attack forced Brazil keeper Barbara to make a spectacular save.
Brazil threatened after the break, with Cristiane’s finely-taken free kick hitting the crossbar in the 52nd minute.
Brazil were eventually rewarded when they were awarded a penalty after Debinha was brought down by Elena Linari and Marta coolly converted the spot kick, wrongfooting Giuliani.
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)