Schroffenegger: 6—Made that absurd double save just after Sabatino opened the scoring and had another strong stop before that, but looked very lost on Regazzoli’s free kick off the woodwork and whiffed on a couple of high crosses. Did show some real comfort with the ball at her feet, which added to Fiorentina’s ability to kill the game off late.
Thøgersen: 7.5—I was very worried when she showed up at rightback, but her fantastic understanding of when to overlap and superb crossing meant she remained a constant and threatening outlet. Held up better than expected on the back foot as well, although she may not be ready for this assignment against a better opponent.
Quinn: 7.5—Won literally every ball in the air that came near her and showed some very intelligent positioning to see off opposing threats. Made a couple of flawlessly-timed tackles in the box to deny chances. Could struggle against pacy attackers, especially if the fullback on her side pushes on, but she’s obviously a tremendous player. Tidy with the ball rather than incisive, but that’s fine.
Tortelli: 6.5—Not quite as secure as Quinn for my money but was more than adequate against a fairly toothless Nerazzurre attack. Used her pace well and coped nicely in space on the flank. Did switch off once or twice when Inter Milan played through the channels, but a bit more time getting to know her defensive teammates’ tendencies should fix any problems.
Zanoli: 7—Consistently pushed forward to stretch play and got an assist for her trouble with a perfect cutback to Mascarello. Looked excellent going forward, frequently dribbling past her marker. Was a bit shakier in her own third and made a few clumsy challenges, rightly earning a late booking, but she was very promising. Also, she’s only 18. Cripes.
Adami: 7—Provided the glue to hold her more forward-minded teammates together. Frequently dropped in at rightback when Thøgersen got forward and offered good cover in front of the defense. Hit a couple of incisive passes going forward but was more steady than creative. Just a very solid captain’s performance for one of the club’s longest serving-players.
Middag: 7—Started rather quietly in the first half and occasionally seemed confused about where to be, but completely dominated after halftime. Sniffed out every loose ball in front of the defense, put in some crunching tackles, showed some excellent awareness and discipline with her positioning, and rarely misplaced a pass, playing a number of very neat interchanges to beat pressure. Thought she was more of a box-to-box player than a holding one, but she’s clearly got the latter in her locker as well.
Mascarello: 8—Goodness gracious, Marta. Created the opener with a perfect pass for Thøgersen, showing her vision, and scored the third herself with a truly magnificent effort from well outside the box. Often floated into central positions to overload Inter’s engine room. Excellent with the ball at her feet and deeply creative; looks like she could be the league’s break out performer this season if she can sustain this level.
Neto: 7.5—So much swagger. She’s not the fastest, but her close control is so good that she could dribble past you in a phone booth. Consistently broke the lines as a passer and runner. Put in an excellent shift defensively, often stepping up to form a front three when pressing. Had a few miscommunications with the strikers, but once they’re synced up, she’s going to be this team’s creative hub.
Sabatino: 8.5—Reports of her demise were greatly exaggerated. Even at 35, she’s got the athleticism to match her experience and finishing instincts. As a pure poacher, knows exactly where to be at any given moment and does a great job of shielding the ball from defenders. Neither of her goals were difficult finishes, but that’s what makes her so dangerous. She’s one step ahead at all times and always ready to pounce. Every team needs that striker who’ll punish any mistake, and Fiorentina has one in Sabatino.
Bonetti: 7.5—Seemed a little bit quiet early on as she adjusted to a new strike partner but buzzed around in typical Tatiana fashion and never gave the defense a moment’s rest with or without the ball. Showed a willingness to put her head down and drive at defenders that few other players on this team have, and scored a peach of a solo effort (beat four defenders and slotted home with her left from a deceptively tricky angle). Remains the team’s greatest source of fantasia.
Piemonte: 6.5—Tidy as you’d like up top and offered a few excellent individual moments, but definitely not on the same wavelength as everyone else at times. Again, that’ll improve with familiarity. In fairness to her, it’s not like Fiorentina were working all that hard for another goal when she came on at 4-0. Did show some conscientious work without the ball.
Breitner: 7—Did typical Breitner things, consistently mopping up in front of the defense and spreading play. Played one absurdly nice little chip over the top that Piemonte lashed goalwards. Remains a very, very good player.
Cordia: n/a—Not enough time to get a read on her, but expect her to feature at rightback when Cincotta wants solidity more than all-out attacking.
Baldi: n/a—Lots of hustle but not enough of a body of work to really grade.
Vigilucci: n/a—See above. Worth pointing out that she played as a leftback rather than a winger; whether that was because Cincotta just wanted to give her a few minutes for her work in training or if she’s actually moving to a new position this year is worth wondering about.
Three things we learned
1. Antonio Cincotta is pretty dang crafty. We wondered about the mister’s beloved 4-4-2 and how it would look with all the summer signings, which seemed to augur a change of shape. We thought it’d be a 3-5-2, but he trotted out a midfield diamond to tremendous effect instead. It’s a real testament to his abilities as a schemer to bring 5 summer signings into his XI while the returning players dealt with a new formation and bring the best out of every single one of his players. There probably wasn’t anybody wondering if he’s a top-level coach, but he answered that non-existent question today by combining the roster’s strengths in such a way that they reflected and magnified each other while concealing the few weaknesses. Just a masterclass.
2. The depth on this team is outrageous. We’ve never seen a Fiorentina team this deep. As an old friend pointed out, any team bringing Breitner off the bench is very good. Besides the XI, let’s not forget that GK Stephanie Öhrström, CB Janni Arnth, and CF Lana Clelland (a former capocannoniere) were all on the bench. Cordia, Vigilucci, Piemonte, and Baldi are all more than capable of starting. Add in youth international stars like GK Camilla Forcinella, CB Chiara Ripamonti, LB Sofia Lorieri, and CM Azzurra Corazzi and you have a squad that has a tantalizing mix of talent, grinta, experience, and youth, as well as one that Cincotta can tailor to specific situations and opponents. In terms of overall talent at the club right now, I think this is the strongest the team’s ever been. I can’t believe I’m saying that after Alia Guagni, Ilaria Mauro, Alice Parisi, Laura Agard, and Paloma Lazaro all left, but here we are.
3. You like goals? Because there will be goals. Sabatino has hit double figures in every season since 2008. Bonetti was second in the league in scoring last year before the stop, has hit double figures in 8 seasons, and has 3 20+ goal seasons under her belt. Clelland led the league in scoring with an absurd 23 in 22 games just 4 years ago and should be recovered from injury. Piemonte hasn’t been very prolific the past couple years but let’s not forget that she made her full international debut at 17 due to her goalscoring exploits and could reignite at any moment. Sara Baldi and Margherita Monnecchi are both young and poised for breakouts. And that’s just the center forwards. When you consider the scoring potential of a midfield with talents like Neto, Middag, Thøgersen, Mascarello, Adami, and Vigilucci and the ability of aerial threats like Louise Quinn to chip in from set pieces, you’ve got a team that’s going to spend a lot of time celebrating goals. They’re going to wear out the scoreboard.