Le Azzurre looks to repeat the heroics of their last Women’s World Cup at Australia and New Zealand after a forgetful Euro campaign where they were knocked out from the group stages. Italy will be relishing the fact of not losing a match since then and wishing the momentum helps them at the biggest stage of all.
Italy will be appearing at a Women’s World Cup for the fourth time in their history. Bertolini’s side achieved their joint-best finish in the tournament four years back by reaching the quarterfinals. The last time they did so was in 1991 when FIFA recognized the competition. Italy topped the group containing heavyweights Australia and Brazil, with Jamaica being the other team, despite being the same on points. Quite stunningly, they beat the Matildas 2-1 in the opener and then smashed the Reggae Girlz 5-0 before losing to the South American giants 1-0. In the last 16, China’s challenge was overcome before the campaign ended in the next round with a defeat to eventual finalists Netherlands. It was a brilliant performance from Italy who few would have backed to come to this stage of the competition. Despite the forwards ruling that edition, Carolina Morace’s four goals in a single campaign in the inaugural tournament remain the highest in its history for a women’s player from the nation.
Qualification for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023
The fight for the automatic spot was a close one between Italy and Switzerland in their qualifiers. At the end, Le Azzurre just kept a two-point gap from the playoff place which was taken up by the Swiss. Both took wins from each other in head-to-head battles but Italy did not drop points in other matches which made the difference. Cristiana Girelli ranked as the top-scorer for the side with eight goals and second most in the overall scoring list in the group. Her teammate Arianna Caruso came third with seven goals.
Preparation for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023
Italy played two friendlies after sealing qualification to the Women’s World Cup. One in April against Colombia where they secured a 2-1 win and drawing goalless against Morocco in the next one. They have not lost a game since the 1-0 loss to Belgium in the group stages of the Euros last summer.
Italy Squad for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023
Goalkeepers: Rachele Baldi (Fiorentina), Francesca Durante (Inter Milan), Laura Giuliani (AC Milan)
Defenders: Elisa Bartoli (AS Roma), Lisa Boattin (Juventus), Lucia Di Guglieimo (AS Roma), Martina Lenzini (Juventus), Elena Linari (AS Roma), Benedetta Orsi (Sassuolo), Cecilia Salvai (Juventus)
Midfielders: Arianna Caruso (Juventus), Valentina Cernoia (Juventus), Giulia Dragoni (Barcelona), Manuela Giugliano (AS Roma), Giada Greggi (AS Roma), Emma Severini (Fiorentina)
Forwards: Chiara Beccari (Como), Barbara Bonansea (Juventus), Sofia Cantore (Juventus), Valentina Giacinti (AS Roma), Cristiana Girelli (Juventus), Benedetta Glionna (AS Roma), Annamaria Serturini (AS Roma)
Head Coach: Milena Bertolini
The most striking omission from the squad was that of captain Sara Gama who led Italy to the quarterfinals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The 34-year-old had 126 caps and was a mainstay in their defence. Coach Milena Bertolini said she had to make the decision for “technical-tactical and physical” reasons and simply to add a more youthful look to the squad. No replacement for the skipper role has been announced yet. Another surprise was the addition of 16-year-old midfielder Giulia Dragoni from Barcelona to the final roster. Dragoni made her national debut in the friendly against Morocco just days before the finals. Defenders Maria Luisa Filangeri and Beatrice Merlo have been kept on a standby list in case of any injuries in the main squad.
As Italian football is well known for, defending will be a strong point for the side to make it extremely harder to go past them. Sufficient depth in that sector also gives the option to not rely solely on one to bail them out from tough situations. The attack also has a combination of tournament experience and vibrant young minds set to deliver their best in their debut Women’s World Cup.
Although the back-line has quality and options, the absence of Sara Gama could still be felt. The Euros were not a success even with her in the defence but still, her leadership and experience could have been crucial at a stage like this. This is also a transitional period for the team, moving away from their old stars and walking towards future generations. So, the Women’s World Cup does not come at an ideal moment.
Key Player: Cristiana Girelli
The trio of Barbara Bonansea, Cristiana Girelli and Valentina Giacinti were the fulcrum of the attack that took Italy to the quarterfinals in the last edition. After a disjointed European Championship, they will like to work in tandem on the world stage again. While the others will be equally important, the scoring prominence will rest a little more on Girelli due to her terrific form. The 33-year-old bagged 13 goals in 16 league matches for Juventus with four goals in six Women’s Champions League matches, including two assists, in the past season. Her scoring instinct will add firepower to this otherwise defensive-minded team. Girelli’s combination with another lethal scorer Giacinti makes the front two a formidable and reliable lot.
How will Italy Lineup at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023?
Italy FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Groups & Fixtures
Monday, 24 July 2023
Italy vs Argentina - Eden Park, Auckland (11:30)
Saturday, 29 July 2023
Sweden vs Italy - Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington (12:30)
Wednesday, 2 August 2023
South Africa vs Italy - Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington (12:30)
Qualifying to the knockouts should not be a hurdle for Italy but topping their group again could be with Sweden in the ranks. Coming second will force Le Azzurre to face 2019 finalists Netherlands, also the team who knocked them out in the quarters. It could be a repeat of the result here as anything more will be nothing short of a miracle for the team.
Note: All timings are in Indian Standard Time (IST)
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