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Italy produced a vibrant attacking display after weathering an early storm to record a crucial 2-1 victory against Denmark in Group A.
The importance of victory for both teams – level on points after drawing their opening games – could not be stressed enough. It was Antonio Cabrini's charges who held their nerve, however, impelled by his mission statement: "Winning is everything." Quickfire second-half goals from Melania Gabbiadini and substitute Ilaria Mauro put the Azzurre in a strong position, before Mia Brogaard ensured a nerve-jangling finale.
Both sides pressured high in the opening exchanges, trading blows, though it was Denmark who were landing marginally more. Johanna Rasmussen played the magician in the middle, feeding Pernille Harder, who had Italy keeper Chiara Marchitelli scrambling to her right with a shot that fizzed centimetres past a post. The Danes' nine-goal top scorer in qualifying came to the fore again moments later, taking receipt of Elisa Bartoli's hurried clearance and lashing over.
The Azzurre's riposte was bullish and seldom lacked ambition. Indeed, adroit dribbler Sandy Iannella – a late replacement for injured winger Elisa Camporese – played the chief protagonist in easing the pain during a torrid spell. Denmark's passing nonetheless remained pure, precise and with purpose, allowing Rasmussen the chance to caress a teasing centre across goal that narrowly evaded Sofie Pedersen's outstretched boot.
On the back foot for long stretches, it was Italy who exhibited early sparkle after the interval. The warning signs were posted when a spell of possession ended in Alessia Tuttino rattling the crossbar from close range. Kenneth Heiner-Møller's charges were wobbling and they duly fell behind when Gabbiadini's instinctive drive deflected in off Line Røddik.
Cabrini's team rubber-stamped their lead five minutes later. Effervescent runner Bartoli drove down the left, creating an opening for Panico, and although the captain's header was parried by Stina Petersen, Mauro turned in the rebound. So steely and determined, the Azzurre looked in little danger of conceding until Brogaard combined intuitively with Mariann Gajhede Knudsen and swept in. Nadia Nadim then threatened a last-gasp equaliser with a shot that whistled beyond the post, but Italy survived.
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