Women’s World Cup 2023 team guides: Italy
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Having reached the latter stages of the Euros four years ago, the Italians are hoping to make up for a poor Euros this time around

There is a generational transition taking place in Italy. With an unpredictable World Cup squad, coach Milena Bertolini surprised many people. Bertolini left out Aurora “Yaya” Galli, one of the pillars of the team that reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup, and captain Sara Gama. She is a legend of the Italian game, already inducted into its hall of fame and the first female vice-president of the Italian Footballers’ Association.

Giulia Dragoni, 16, was also given a World Cup chance by Bertolini, after Valentina Bergamaschi and Martina Piemonte were dropped. “Excluding Gama was a tough decision, but I had the right and duty to do so,” Bertolini said. “The decision was based on technical, tactical, and physical factors. There are other players ahead of her now.”

In the near future, a team made up of players born around the millennium (Arianna Caruso, Martina Lenzini, Manuela Giugliano, Giada Greggi, Benedetta Glionna) will take control of the team, with teenagers Dragoni and Chiara Beccari as potential future leaders.

Despite a draw between the Swiss and Romania, Italy qualified for the World Cup by winning Group G ahead of Switzerland thanks to a late goal scored by Cristiana Girelli in Thun. As a defensive line, Bertolini usually employs four players, Giugliano as a deep-lying playmaker and Barbara Bonansea as a flanker. Two experienced strikers, Girelli and Valentina Giacinti, will be asked to contribute goals and offensive quality.

In anticipation of the World Cup, Bertolini said, “We want to play good, attractive football.” The key to success will be chemistry. Italy needs to recapture the magic they had in France in 2019. It will be the end of a golden generation if this happens. “Euro 2022 was disappointing for Italy,” Bonansea said, reflecting on the fact that they finished a point behind the top of their group. “I want to relive the emotions we experienced four years ago. We can do something beautiful if we enjoy ourselves.”

The Italian head coach Milena Bertolini

Milena Bertolini was appointed in August 2017 after working for Brescia for five years. For Italy, she has achieved a number of important goals during this six-year period: reaching the quarterfinals of the 2019 World Cup, qualifying for Euro 2022, and qualifying for this World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. In spite of this, a poor Euros has left its mark. In the wake of the World Cup, Bertolini is likely to leave and another coach will step in to write a new chapter. “I’ve had the privilege of coaching Italy,” Bertolini said. We live in an uncertain world, and I am no different. The World Cup will probably determine our future.”

Star player

Among the players to watch in European football, Manuela Giugliano is quickly establishing herself as a leader of Italy’s midfield. As a playmaker or a No 10, she demonstrates her style, vision, reading of the game, and ability to open up passing lanes that other players haven’t seen. With Roma, she won her first scudetto this year and seems ready to step up. This year, she said, “I found a sense of balance I’ve never experienced before.”.

Rising star

Upon being named to the squad, Giulia Dragoni made headlines in Italy and abroad. As a 16-year-old midfielder for Inter, Dragoni has only played a few minutes in Serie A. As the first foreign woman to reside at Barça’s legendary academy, La Masia, she made history in January. Nevertheless, Dragoni’s talent is clear, and she has always been considered destined for success. Her dribbling and technical skills earned her the nickname “little Messi” at a very young age. It is expected that she will train with the first team next season after spending six months with Barcelona B.