The Azzurre resume their European qualifying campaign. Bertolini: “We're returning with a great deal of enthusiasm”Question marks remain about Italy Women's match against Israel due to the second lockdown announced in the country
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Italy Women are set to resume their European qualifying campaign with a double-header: first, they’ll face Israel at the Stadio Carlo Castellani in Empoli on Thursday (20:45 CEST), while a match against Bosnia & Herzegovina will then follow on Tuesday 22 September in Zenica. With Israel having announced a second lockdown, question marks remain about the first match. The Azzurre will know more tomorrow.
It’s an unusual situation, in keeping with an unusual year. Six months have passed since Italy Women played their last fixture, which was in the Algarve Cup back in March. The Women’s National Team are currently hard at work at Coverciano as they look to continue where they left off: the Azzurre were riding high prior to the COVID-19 emergency, displaying cohesion and making progress in terms of their game.
“The end of September is always a unique situation,” said Head Coach Milena Bertolini during her press conference today. “This applies to the men’s team too, because the new season has just started and the players don’t have many minutes in their legs. Furthermore, we’re meeting up after six months of inactivity. We would like to play both of these matches, but we all understand the precarious situation and that we need to take things as they come on a day-by-day basis. The situation is bigger than us all. We’re waiting for a decision to be made, but in the meantime we’ll continue to train and work hard because it won’t be easy to pick up where we left off after all this time away. No one should make the mistake of underestimating these two sides. Israel are a tough team to play from a physical perspective and character-wise, they caused us problems last year. The same applies to Bosnia: you only need to consider that Denmark, who were playing at home, had difficulties in overcoming them. Therefore, two finals await us.”
Italy currently lead Group B and sit on maximum points following six wins from six against Israel, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia and Malta. The Azzurre have faced the latter two times each, emerging victorious in all of those games. Now, the objective is to achieve two more victories ahead of the vital double-header against Denmark at the end of the year. The Danes have won all five of the qualifying matches they’ve played so far and have a better goal difference than the Azzurre.
“The players returned to action with a great deal of enthusiasm,” continued Bertolini. “Putting on an Italy shirt brings pure happiness. My first impression was that they’ve become even better athletes. From when I arrived until today, there’s been a real transformation. In recent times, they’ve been working their socks off because they were chomping at the bit to get started again, but it’s clear that the long break interrupted a project we’d been working on for a long time, and we need to find our feet again in a number of areas.”
The Azzurre Coach will have 27 players at her disposal for the two upcoming clashes, with a first senior call-up for defenders Tecla Pettenuzzo and Maria Luisa Filangeri, of Roma and Sassuolo respectively. Lucia Di Guglielmo, Cecilia Prugna and Elisa Polli also join the senior squad for the first time, all of whom have played key roles in Empoli’s impressive start to the season, alongside Benedetta Glionna, who is returning to action for the Azzurre two and a half years on from her last call-up. Moreover, goalkeeper Francesca Durante and midfielder Flaminia Simonetti are back in the squad after long absences. “When I pick my squad, I look at how things are going in the league,” emphasised Bertolini. “Together with the Federation, we’re continuing to work hard on our Under-23 squad, considering there are lots of youngsters coming through, many of whom are regular starters in the league. Regardless of their age, if a player has the quality, they’ll get called up. This time, I’ve picked a bigger squad, throwing some young prospects into the mix, alongside more established teammates, so that we can gradually renew the squad. The experience of the older players will be complemented by the youngsters’ fresh ideas.”
The Head Coach also commented on the state of the Women’s Serie A: “The bar is constantly being raised. It’s pleasing to see that there are some top-quality players coming in from overseas, which is important to help Italian players mature. The physicality of the Women’s Serie A is growing, and I’m hoping that the technical quality also increases. All the usual contenders are looking strong, namely Fiorentina, AC Milan and Juventus, but there are plenty of sides who can give them a run for their money, like Empoli, Sassuolo, and now Inter and Roma, who have both spent a fair bit on new players. That is to say, it’s by no means a foregone conclusion as to who will take the top two spots in the league.”
Goalkeepers: Laura Giuliani (Juventus), Francesca Durante (Hellas Verona), Katja Schroffenegger (Fiorentina);
Defenders: Laura Fusetti (AC Milan), Elena Linari (Bordeaux), Tecla Pettenuzzo (AS Roma), Alice Tortelli (Fiorentina), Maria Luisa Filangeri (Sassuolo), Valentina Bergamaschi (AC Milan), Lucia Di Guglielmo (Empoli), Elisa Bartoli (AS Roma), Lisa Boattin (Juventus), Linda Tucceri Cimini (AC Milan);
Midfielders: Manuela Giugliano (AS Roma), Marta Mascarello (Fiorentina), Aurora Galli (Juventus), Martina Rosucci (Juventus), Flaminia Simonetti (Inter), Cecilia Prugna (Empoli), Arianna Caruso (Juventus);
Forwards: Cristiana Girelli (Juventus), Valentina Giacinti (AC Milan), Daniela Sabatino (Fiorentina), Stefania Tarenzi (FC Inter), Barbara Bonansea (Juventus), Benedetta Glionna (Empoli), Elisa Polli (Empoli).
Staff – Head Coach: Milena Bertolini; Delegation Head: Cristiana Capotondi; Team Manager: Barbara Facchetti; Women’s National Team Coordinator: Annarita Stallone; Assistant Coach: Nicola Matteucci; Secretary: Alessandra Savini Nicci; Fitness Coach Francesco Perondi; Goalkeeper Coach: Cristiano Viotti; Match Analyst: Marco Mannucci; Doctors: Luca Gatteschi, Alessandro Carcangiu and Antonio Ponzo; Physiotherapists: Daniele Frosoni and Emanuele Provini; Nutritionist: Natale Gentile.
Schedule (all times CEST)
Saturday 12 September
13:45 Press conference with the Head Coach
Sunday 13 September
13:15 Player meeting with the media*
Monday 14 September
13:45 Player meeting with the media*
Tuesday 15 September
Wednesday 16 September
17:15 Press conference with the Head Coach and captain
18:00 Training (open to the press for the first 15 minutes)
Thursday 17 September
20:45 Italy vs. Israel
Post-match press conference with the Head Coach
Friday 18 September
Saturday 19 September
13:15 Meeting with the media*
Sunday 20 September
Departure from the Venezia Mestre railway station for Sarajevo and subsequent transfer to Zenica
Monday 21 September
16:00 Training (open to the press for the first 15 minutes)
Tuesday 22 September
16:00 Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Italy
*All press activities will be carried out in full respect of the protocols laid out by the FIGC and UEFA for the COVID-19 emergency