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Italy's World Cup: A Tournament Of Setbacks And Struggles

Before the 2023 Women's World Cup, there was a lot of hope in the Italian camp that they would perform well at the tournament and that it would be themselves and Sweden to advance. A 2-1 win against Argentina gave players and fans hope, but unfortunately, they would be torn apart by Sweden 4-0 in the next game and their final match against South Africa, they would self-destruct, including an Orsi own goal and a last-minute goal by Kgatlana to send the Azzurre home.

As well as their on-field troubles, there were off-field problems, the most notable of which is the player's statement that was released by Cristina Girelli criticising the lack of support from the FIGC, feeling that they did not help them set up well for the tournament.

No Reference Point Up Front

In Italy's heavy 5-0 defeat against Sweden, the lack of appearance of super sub-Cristina Girelli. Girelli ended up being an unused sub against Sweden, most likely due to the score being out of sight by halftime. Beccari, the young Juventus forward, started instead of Girelli. While Beccari wasn't awful, Girelli is a more experienced goalscorer for Italy and showed in the game's dying moments against Argentina that she could be crucial for Italy's attack. Indeed, if you are in a match against one of your group's most formidable teams, you need a proven goalscorer, which could be seen as a lack of hindsight for manager Bertolini.

Sofia Cantore was a key player for Italy and was a clear, bright spot of the team, playing as a hybrid central midfielder and attacking winger, providing much-needed pace on the counter-attack; however, she could not find goals to add to her blistering pace, additionally starting Giacinti who started a lot of the tournament was another key player for the Italian attack but ultimately was also unable to be that much-needed goal threat qs in periods of their group games they controlled the possession well but ultimately couldn't create enough clear cut chances.

Tough Competition

Italy's group consisted of Argentina, Sweden and South Africa, a World Cup Group that was predicted to be close between all four countries that were competing; their first test against Argentina was an extremely back-and-forth game, with both sides having their share of possession and was only separated by a last minute Girelli header, allowing Italy to snatch all 3 points from their opening game.

However, whilst they may have been going into the second game against Sweden with confidence against a familiar European opponent, this confidence would vanish after the first 25 minutes, which was the only period where they looked like the better team as they could not deal with the aerial threat that Sweden possessed at corners with the addition of Sweden becoming clinical with their set pieces lead to them tearing Italy apart winning 5-0 and leaving a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Le Azzurre heading into their final group game against South Africa.

Going into the last group game, Italy should have been the clear winners, despite South Africa being favoured as potential underdogs and that if Italy needed to win to stay in the tournament, then they would be the ones to knock them out. However, Italy looked the stronger team in the opening 11 minutes as they were awarded a penalty that Caruso slotted away to give Italy the lead; however, the defensive mistakes would eventually rear their ugly head as in an attempted pass back to the goalkeeper Orso would misjudge the position of Mirante and score an own goal helping South Africa find their way back into the game.

This own goal gave South Africa confidence heading into the second half, where they would go ahead in the 67th minute thanks to Magaia; Italy would eventually draw level with Caruso making it a brace for herself, and after Italy's equaliser, it looked as if the game would finish story, however, in the 11 minutes of added time, South Africa found their reserves of energy setting up Kgtalana in the 93 minutes to score the winning goal and send Italy out of the tournament.

Lack Of Support from the FIGC (Italian Football Federation)

After their World Cup exit, it was clear that there was an underlying issue that was felt by all of the players, with a statement posted and signed by members of the national team and shared by Cristina Girelli on social media after their World Cup exit highlighted that they feel that they need more significant support back home for women's football as they believe they were not put in the condition to succeed at the World Cup.

Bertolini's squad, whilst leaving out prior captain Sara Gama, prized 16 players who competed in the Women's Champions League with Juventus and AS Roma, clubs coming from great 22/23 campaigns; despite the success of players within the squad, there was a lack of presence from the Italian Federation (FIGC) who did not send a representative to the tournament to watch the side which struck another blow to the sides confidence.

Whilst the squad ultimately understood that they did not play to the best of their abilities, they were coming off a disappointing Euros and a World Cup where they had reached the quarter-finals, and since those two tournaments had learnt a lot. Italy could have gone far in the tournament but ultimately felt that the FIGC had let them down regarding the coverage and support the team received from the Italian Football Federation.

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