Italy team guide Women’s Euro 2022: stars, players, coach, tactics, expectations...
Italy are pitted in Group D and will face stern competition from Belgium, Iceland and highly rated France.
The team that impressed the world by surprisingly reaching the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup is back, with the same core group of players and some young blood. This could be the last chance for this golden generation to make their mark but in some ways a European Championship could be even more difficult than a World Cup and the bookmakers consider Italy the ninth favourites for the tournament.
Italy qualified after dropping points only to eventual group winners Denmark, conceding only five goals and scoring 35 in a group containing Bosnia Herzegovina, Malta, Israel and Georgia. Nine of these goals were scored by the Juventus forward Cristiana Girelli. Qualification was only confirmed in the last group game, played in Florence against Israel. The Azzurri had to win with a two-goal margin to avoid the playoffs as one of the second-placed sides with the best records. They won 12-0.
“At the European Championship the Italians have to support and cheer us,” coach Milena Bertolini said. “However, we have to work hard. It will be a beautiful Euro for the quality of the game and a further opportunity for women’s football to grow. We have to go there as prepared as we can, making sacrifices, but the girls know it. I see a great soul in this national team”.
From a tactical point of view, Italy generally play 4-3-3 with Manuela Giugliano a deep-lying playmaker in midfield. The forward three, led by Girelli, are dynamic and mobile, and interchange positions.
Milena Bertolini has certain playing principles. Among these, the most important are an always advancing defence, the interchangeability of roles, the perpetual motion of the players. Bertolini was appointed in August 2017 and for now, she has always hit her targets: qualification for the 2019 World Cup in France, after a 20-year absence from the competition, and then reaching the quarter-finals. And now Euro 2022. Alongside those impressive results she has raised the level of the team and given confidence to the young players coming through.
The top scorer of the team in the qualifying group with nine goals. Italy’s number 10. The winner of the Serie A Best player award in 2020 and 2021. The only Italian to score five goals in the last edition of the Women’s Champions League, including one against Lyon in the quarter-finals. Cristiana Girelli is a constant threat for any defence. “If I were 15 years younger, I would dream to win a Ballon d’Or,” the 32-year-old has said. “Never say never but I am happy to play, have fun and keep on scoring goals. This is my dream.”
Arianna Caruso was only 19 when Italy played in the World Cup quarter-finals in 2019. A few months later, she made her debut with la maglia azzurra and she seems now ready to settle as a key force in Italy’s midfield. A goalscorer despite playing in midfield, Caruso was a starter in two of the three games played in the 2022 Algarve Cup. “I’ve always had a ball with me,” she recalled in an interview. “My father was a referee and my mother did not want me to go and watch his games. However, I remember that one day we were there and we yelled at him: ‘We know where you live, we’ll burn down your house’”. A girl with a sense of fun, clearly.
Elisa Bartoli – Sara Gama – Elena Linari – Lisa Boattin
Arianna Caruso – Manuela Giugliano – Valentina Cernoia
Barbara Bonansea – Cristiana Girelli – Valentina Giacinti
Born in 1964, Carolina Morace played more than 150 games for Italy’s national team, scoring more than 100 goals. During her career, she won 12 league titles, two Italian Cups and was the Serie A top scorer 12 times. In her career, Morace scored more than 500 goals, a record in Italy including the men’s game.: She once scored four goals for Italy at Wembley. The Euro 1997 Best Player, she was the first woman to coach a men’s pro team, Viterbese, in 1999. In 2015 she became the first woman inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame. In 2020 she wrote a coming out book, “Fuori dagli schemi”, in which she openly talked about her love story with her wife Nicola Jane Williams. “Don’t ask permission to do what you want. Just do it,” she said in an interview.
The glory days of Italian women’s football were the 1990s. The Azzurre reached the Euro final twice, in 1993 and 1997. The team, led by coach Sergio Guenza, lost against Norway and Germany, failing to get their hands on a maiden trophy. Then, something went awry. After reaching the semi-finals in six of the first seven European Championships, Italy have not got that far since, losing against Germany both in the 2009 and 2013 quarter-finals. In 2017 they came bottom of their group, behind Germany, Sweden and Russia.
Group D (France, Italy, Belgium, Iceland) is not an easy one to predict. The quarter-finals are the minimum target for the Azzurre. Then … why not dream?