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Italy Forfeit the Algarve Cup to Germany

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Forfeiting a final you’ve waited 12 years for, and then not being allowed to fly home is the most bitter of blows.

Italy v Malta - UEFA Euro 2021 Womens Championship Qualifiers Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Algarve Cup has been one of the mainstays of international women’s football since the mid-nineties, and one of the few (but not the only) competitions to be branded the “mini-World Cup” on the women’s side of the game. Italy’s current generation of players have been dragging the Nerazzure back to respectability, ever since their World Cup 2019 heroics, after years in the wilderness.

Reaching the Algarve Cup final this week was just a further confirmation of what could lie ahead for Roma and Italy starts Elisa Bartoli, Manuela Giugliano and Agnese Bonfantini. But now all that is gone in a double-bitter blow for coach Milena Bertolini’s squad.

No sooner had the FIGC announced that Italy would pull out of the today’s Algarve Cup final —due to Portugal’s impending flight ban potentially stranding the team—than an even further blow fell upon the squad this morning.

It was thought that the Italian players would make their 9 am flight out of Faro to get home to the peninsula, but instead Bertolini found herself and her players rooted to the spot. The Italy squad are still in Portugal, only recently finding an alternative route back home.

That led to some late calls (rightly or wrongly) from fans for Italy to go ahead and prepare for the cup final after all. The game would have been televised on Rai, which has secured millions of viewers on repeat for the women’s live Italy games since last summer.

At one point, the women’s national team attracted more live TV viewers in Italy than a Cristiano Ronaldo friendly game with Juventus, when their scheduled clashed on the same day.; such is the magnitude of pride restored to Italy’s football scene thanks to the World Cup 2019 campaign.

Italy doing a U-turn and playing the final after all (which was never suggested by anyone inside the squad or the FIGC) wouldn’t have necessarily been the right thing anyway, since the call not to play was a show of unity that the responsibility to contain the COVID-19 virus outbreak is one shared together, athletes and all.

Nonetheless, that decision has been completely taken out of anyone’s hands now that the Portuguese football association announced Germany as Algarve Cup winners in 2020 by forfeit.

We can’t really imagine how morale picks up for Bartoli, Bonfantini and Giugliano after this—Roma coach Betty Bavagnoli has a job on her hands scooping them up from what must be a rock bottom feeling.

On that same note, Roma Women have announced a complete suspension of all training sessions until March 30th. Football is in disarray, but the same can be said tenfold for the state of frenzy around the continent’s health right now.

Update: They're Home!