I'm not going to delve into how much I hate international breaks again, but needless to say the latest break in Serie A Femminile—Roma hasn't played since February 20th and won't again until March 13th—has been interminable. The lack of graceful runs from Agnese Bonfantini and silky passes from Vanessa Bernauer has only been magnified by the struggles on the men's side of the aisle, a saga that reached it's nadir with the midweek dismissals of EDF and Monchi.
Lost amidst all that tumult were some pretty impressive performances from Roma's Italian internationals, chief among them Elisa Bartoli and Annamaria Serturini. While a host of other Giallorosse players were on international duty over the past couple of weeks, most notably Bernauer who logged 150 for Switzerland in the Algarve Cup, we'll focus on the Italian internationals who comprise the majority of Roma's roster.
Elisa Bartoli, Annamaria Serturini, Agnese Bonfantini & Rosalia Pipitone
While Italy ultimately lost in the final to North Korea, the Azzurre absolutely rolled the competition in this two week tournament. In three group stage matches Italy racked up an astounding +11 goal differential while toppling Hungary, Mexico and Thailand without even batting an eye.
Italy 5, Mexico 0
#Nazionale Femminile#CyprusCup #Italia troppo forte, le #Azzurre esordiscono con una netta vittoria contro il #Messico— Nazionale Italiana (@Vivo_Azzurro) February 27, 2019
La ct #Bertolini: “Brave soprattutto nel secondo tempo” pic.twitter.com/aGhsiehBSm
Italy's full attacking might was on display in what proved to be the most lopsided fixture of the tournament. Led by AC Milan's Valentina Giacinti, Italy made quick work of their North American counterparts, giving El Tri precious little room to breath in this match. I'm still not sure how 16th ranked Italy will stack up against the true heavy weights in the women's game, but between Giacinti, Daniela Sabatino, Barbara Bonansea and Cristiana Girelli, they have no shortage of goal scorers, so if nothing else, I'd expect some high scoring affairs this summer.
And while she didn't factor in this five-nil drubbing, Elisa Bartoli went the full 90, helping the Azzurre keep yet another cleansheet.
Italy 3, Hungary 0
Italy's second straight romper was a banner day for the Giallorosse, with two of their youngest players achieving personal milestones against Hungary. After a brace from Giacinti put the match to bed in the first half (she's good in case you didn't pick up on that), Serturini scored her first international goal in the 55th minute as she got on the end of a looping through ball that the keeper inexplicably bottled, allowing Serturini to sneak past her and slot it home(1:18 mark).
We've certainly seen grander exhibitions of skill from Serturini this season, and the keeper's error notwithstanding, the Roma forward did a good job of continuing her run through the ball to grab an easy goal. Serturini had a pretty consistent role throughout this tournament (well, as much as one can in such a quick competition) and may have a shot at replicating that in France come June.
While Bonfantini adding to Hungary's misery would have made the match even sweeter, she had to "settle” for only earning her first official cap, as she came on as a second half sub in the 64th minute. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, Bonfantini is (at the moment) stuck behind some of Italy's brightest talents—her time will surely come, though.
Italy 4, Thailand 1
#Nazionale #Femminile⚽️— Nazionale Italiana (@Vivo_Azzurro) March 4, 2019
Doppio colpo dell’#Italia : batte 4⃣-1⃣ la Thailandia e conquista la finale della #CyprusCup
➡️Il report del match: https://t.co/bDrMPBzX39#VivoAzzurro #Azzurre pic.twitter.com/2GRulSYyZe
With passage to the final stage of the tournament booked, Italy manager Milena Bertolini mixed and matched her lineup a bit, giving the start in goal to Rosalia Pipitone, and while she was beaten in the 67th minute, it was an otherwise uneventful match for Roma's number one keeper. Serturini also got some run in this match, coming on in the 56th minute for Barbara Bonansea.
Italy 3, North Korea 3 (6-7 penalties)
#Nazionale Femminile - #CyprusCup #Italia a un passo dal successo, #Azzurre sconfitte ai rigori nella finale con la #CoreaDelNord . Dopo il 3-3 ai supplementari decide l’errore dal dischetto di #Bonansea.— Nazionale Italiana (@Vivo_Azzurro) March 7, 2019
L'articolo https://t.co/0i7qSwQuCF#VivoAzzurro pic.twitter.com/odKzGRXYiP
Going to penalties is seldom a fair outcome, but it reeks all the worse in a cup final, especially when you come up on the short end, and especially when you practically moon-walked to the final in the first place.
After breezing through the group stages, it seemed like the route was on for Italy as they grabbed an early lead thanks to Juve #10 Cristiana Girelli, whose 19th minute goal put Italy on top. However, the Azzurre were unable to hold that lead and actually fell behind 2-1 at the stroke of half time.
Daniela Sabatino's fourth goal of the tournament would put things level at two apiece in the 79th minute, eventually forcing the match into extra time. With North Korea reclaiming their lead in the 106th minute, it seemed like all of Italy's good work would go for naught.
And just when things seemed their bleakest, Juve midfielder Valentina Cernola's 111th minute strike was enough to send this thing to penalties, which, unfortunately, didn't go Italy's way as Bonansea's miss in the seventh round was all she wrote for Italy.
For her part, Bartoli played 56 minutes in this epic final, wrapping up a rather busy break for Roma's captain.
Given Bertolini's tinkering, we can only glean so much about her intentions for this summer's World Cup. While several players seem to have starting spots absolutely locked down (Bonansea, Giacinti, Gama and Giuliani) the rest of the eleven still seems up in the air.
However, if this tournament was any indication, we can safely assume that Bartoli will have a prominent role in Bertolini's schemes while Serturini may have an outside shot as being the second-half-shot-in-the-arm-sub.
While that will have to wait until June, Roma jump back into action on the 13th in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal matchup against Fiorentina. Alongside the men's Champions League semifinals against Liverpool last year, this stands as perhaps the biggest match the organization has seen in over a decade.
Do. Not. Miss. It.