The Italy Women’s National Team showed serious signs of improvement despite falling to a narrow 1-0 defeat to world champions Spain in the UEFA Women’s Nations League on Friday evening. It took an 89th-minute strike from Jenni Hermoso for the Azzurre to be beaten.

Although a quick glance at the game’s statistics will show that Spain were well on top from start to finish, Andrea Soncin saw his Azzurre go within minutes of a memorable result and would have been pleased with a lot of what he saw from his players at the Stadio Arechi in Salerno.

You would be hard-pressed to find anybody who would argue that the world champions weren’t deserving of their win by the end of the evening, but the manner in which Jenni Hermoso‘s winner came will leave Italy temporarily deflated but ultimately heartened with how long they managed to keep Spain out.

Arianna Caruso of the Italy Women’s National Team up against Spain’s Alexia Putellas in the UEFA Women’s Nations League. (@AzzurreFIGC)

Italy expectedly second best, but signs of growth

Nobody would have expected the Azzurre to come out on top against a phenomenal Spain side, even with the visitors having a number of off-field issues hanging over them still. But Soncin will be pleased with the fight his players showed and they limited the opposition to just five shots on target and not too many clear-cut chances despite their 20 attempts and a good performance from Laura Giuliani in goal.

“It’s a pity but I can only applaud the girls’ effort and heart tonight,” said Soncin to Rai after the game, adding that each of his players showed their worth on the night and that there is a lot of confidence within the group.

Eventually in Salerno, though, Spain‘s class told and Giuliani was unable to keep everything out. When Salma Paralluelo teed up Ballon d’Or holder Alexia Putellas inside the box, the Arechi inhaled collectively and expectantly, but Giuliani pulled off a good save with an outstretched leg. The AC Milan goalkeeper was unlucky to see the ball fall right to the feet of Jenni Hermoso, and she made no mistake in finishing the rebound.

Even then, the Azzurre showed heart and fight and had a huge chance to restore parity almost immediately. Valentina Giacinti came off the bench as one final throw of the dice, and she found herself through on goal in stoppage time. But her effort was uncharacteristically tame and Cata Coll was able to gratefully grasp it out of the air.

Italy looked a far cry from the side who underperformed at both the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2022 Women’s European Championship though, and they will need to put in another performance of that kind when they continue their Women’s Nations League campaign away to world rankings leaders Sweden in Malmo on Halloween night.