Nazionale A Femminile

A place at the European Championship at stake against Israel. Bertolini: “The time has come to put our foot on the accelerator”

The Azzurre will hold their first training session this afternoon ahead of their fixture on 24 February in Florence, where they previously secured qualification for the World Cup in France

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A place at the European Championship at stake against Israel. Bertolini: “The time has come to put our foot on the accelerator”

Italy Women are set to hold their first training session at Coverciano this afternoon after meeting at the Federal Technical Centre yesterday ahead of their final Euro 2022 qualifying fixture against Israel, a match that will kick off at 17:30 CET on Wednesday 24 February at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence.

It’ll be a decisive showdown for the Azzurre, who must beat Israel in order to avoid the playoffs. A six-goal victory would guarantee automatic qualification for next summer’s tournament as one of the three best runners-up. If they don’t achieve this, Bertolini’s side would be reliant on favourable results from the other groups. “It’s a highly significant match, because it gives us the chance to automatically qualify for the European Championship,” said the Head Coach in her press conference today. Taking part in the tournament would also be the next step in the growth of women’s football in Italy: “A gap still exists between ourselves and the very top teams. As a Federation, we’ve started to decisively invest in women’s football, with this process beginning in 2015. Up until the 1999 World Cup, things were going well, but then there was a 15-year period where we fell behind, meaning we’re being forced to catch up now. The last five years have seen us close the gap that divides us from the strongest international teams. Now, we need to put our foot on the accelerator and qualify for the Euros, also because it’ll provide the girls with international experience.”

Italy’s qualifying campaign began in August 2019 against Israel, who they beat 3-2 thanks to goals from Cristiana Girelli, Elisa Bartoli and Valentina Giacinti. The upcoming fixture was originally scheduled to take place on 17 September but was postponed due to the measures put in place by the Israeli government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On paper, the Azzurre are favourites against a side that is 68th in the FIFA ranking and second from last in Group B on seven points. Their only two wins have come against Georgia, who have finished last after losing all of their matches. “Despite where they are in the ranking, Israel are making great progress. In the reverse fixture, we were forced to dig in, even if it’s now difficult to compare that game with the upcoming clash. Indeed, we last played them a year and a half ago, and the match came straight after the World Cup in France at an unusual time psychologically. We’re aware that we’ll be up against a side that will be particularly aggressive and is developing from an organisational point of view. It’ll be very important for us not to get caught up in our nerves or the pressure they apply.”

Already without Aurora Galli, Milena Bertolini will also have to do without Alia Guagni, who picked up an injury while in action for Atletico Madrid. She’s been replaced by 18-year-old Fiorentina defender Martina Zanoli, who’s been called up to the senior team for the first time: “Alia will undergo an MRI scan to see the extent of her injury. On a psychological level, it was a big blow for her: she’s had several muscular problems since she began her adventure in Spain. However, she’s a strong girl and excellent player, and she’ll know how to bounce back: she’s already done so in the past.”

For the third time in their history, Italy Women will take to the pitch in Florence. This follows on from their 1-1 friendly draw against England in January 1995 and their 3-0 victory over Portugal in June 2018, thanks to which they qualified for the 2019 World Cup in France. “It’ll be great for us to play at the Franchi, because it reminds us of moments that were important for the movement,” said the Head Coach. She continued: “The victory over Portugal started a resurgence, and the women’s game has grown exponentially since then.”

Squad list

Goalkeepers: Roberta Aprile (Inter), Francesca Durante (Hellas Verona), Laura Giuliani (Juventus), Katja Schroffenegger (Fiorentina);
Defenders: Elisa Bartoli (AS Roma), Lisa Boattin (Juventus), Lucia Di Guglielmo (Empoli), Sara Gama (Juventus), Laura Fusetti (AC Milan), Martina Lenzini (Sassuolo), Elena Linari (AS Roma), Cecilia Salvai (Juventus), Linda Tucceri Cimini (AC Milan), Martina Zanoli (Fiorentina);
Midfielders: Valentina Bergamaschi (AC Milan), Arianna Caruso (Juventus), Valentina Cernoia (Juventus), Manuela Giugliano (AS Roma), Cecilia Prugna (Empoli), Martina Rosucci (Juventus), Annamaria Serturini (AS Roma);
Forwards: Barbara Bonansea (Juventus), Sofia Cantore (Florentia San Gimignano), Valentina Giacinti (AC Milan), Cristiana Girelli (Juventus), Benedetta Glionna (Empoli), Daniela Sabatino (Fiorentina), Stefania Tarenzi (Inter).

Schedule (all times CET)

Tuesday 16 February
13:30 Press Conference (Head Coach)
15:30 Training*

Wednesday 17 February
9:30 Training*
15:30 Training*

Thursday 18 February
15:00 Training*

Friday 19 February
9:30 Training*
15:00 Training*

Saturday 20 February
15:00 Training*

Sunday 21 February
15:00 Training*

Monday 22 February
15:00 Training*

Tuesday 23 February
15:45 Press Conference (Head Coach and Captain at the Stadio Artemio Franchi)
16:30 Training (press access for the first 15 minutes)

Wednesday 24 February
17:30 Italy vs. Israel

* No press access