Italy looked a different side to the one that suffered a 5-0 hammering against Sweden at the Women’s World Cup as the two faced off again in the UEFA Women’s Nations League in Castel di Sangro on Tuesday evening. In the end, though, a spirited Azzurre still fell to a 1-0 defeat against the world’s top-ranked side.

In the end, it was a first-half goal from Chelsea‘s Johanna Rytting Kaneryd that sealed the win and the points for Sweden, but Andrea Soncin and his Azzurre can take positives from the performance despite the result. 

Improved Italy put up a fight

Having been taken apart by Sweden just a couple of months earlier in New Zealand, it would have been easy for the Azzurre to fear the worst when they fell behind so early on again, as the opening exchanges had shown similar patterns to that game in July. Back then, Italy had started on the front foot but were swiftly punished when Sweden attacked, and the same thing happened in Castel di Sangro. 

But this time the Azzurre didn’t let their heads drop, and they looked more like a side who can compete with sides better than themselves. Italy are a long way away from really bothering the higher-ranked sides and challenging for trophies when tournaments come around, but they have enough quality that should prevent them from being swatted aside like minnows – as happened against Sweden in the summer and against France the previous year at the European Championship.

Sofia Cantore in action for the Italy Women’s National Team. (@AzzurreFIGC)

Is Soncin finding solutions? 

While there are still some questions to be asked of Soncin‘s first-choice XI, and it’s also reasonable for him to still be working that out himself after just two games, the game against Sweden showed how some of the up-and-coming players might be used in the next year or two, through this Women’s Nations League and ahead of the 2025 European Championship. 

Giulia Dragoni came off the bench in the second half and looked more than comfortable at that level. Having been handed a first-team number with European champions Barcelona this season as well, the teenager looks set to have a breakthrough year at club level after being a surprise inclusion in Italy‘s World Cup squad, and a regular on the pitch in New Zealand as well. Chiara Beccari was another teenager to come off the bench and look bright in flashes. 

Giulia Dragoni in training with the Italy Women’s National Team. (@AzzurreFIGC)

Soncin does, though, still need to find a way to make his attack click. It didn’t look fluid against Switzerland, and it feels as though Valentina Giacinti is somewhat shoehorned into the side when Martina Piemonte is chosen as the central striker. There are options there and perhaps other shapes can be experimented with, particularly with the likes of AS Roma wide pair Benedetta Glionna and Annamaria Serturini not having an obvious place in the current 4-3-3.

With Giada Greggi and Cristiana Girelli also on the bench, as well as Lisa Boattin and Barbara Bonansea left out of this squad due to injury, there are plenty of high-quality options that Soncin hasn’t yet handed a starting spot to.