Defiant Italy stun Spain with comeback win to avoid Nations League relegation

The Italy Women's National Team produced a stunning second-half display to beat Spain and remain in Nations League A with one game still to play.


The Italy Women’s National Team produced a stunning second-half display against Spain to win 3-2 and mathematically avoid relegation from the UEFA Women’s Nations League A: Group 4.

Facing the world champions in Pontevedra, Italy knew that they had a big job on their hands, a job that looked even bigger at half-time when they were 1-0 down and never looked like scoring.

Goals from Valentina Giacinti, Michela Cambiaghi and Elena Linari in the second half turned the game on its head and despite a late rally from Spain, Andrea Soncin‘s side secured a famous.

Spain dominate the first half

Italy Women’s Lisa Boattin on the ball against Spain. [@AzzureFIGC]

It was very clear from early in the game that Spain were going to pen their opponents into their own half and pass them to death. They were keeping the ball extremely well and with almost every player in the team posing an attacking threat, it was no surprise when Athenea del Castillo got half a yard on her defender and fired into the roof of the net past Laura Giuliani.

The game continued in that way and whilst Italy were able to occasionally get the ball into Spain‘s half, any danger was quickly snuffed out by the world champions. The Azzurre did have a bit more joy going forward towards the end of the first half but a clear chance never came.

Italy produce stunning fightback

Italy Women’s players celebrate. [@AzzurreFIGC]

Despite a poor first half, Italy got themselves level as soon as the second half began. Arianna Caruso found AS Roma‘s Valentina Giacinti in the box who turned Ona Batlle and found the top corner. It was a goal that really showed the value of staying in the game at 1-0.

Incredibly, Italy took the lead ahead of the hour mark. Manuela Giugliano got down the right and played a superb cross into the middle where Michela Cambiaghi was waiting to power in an excellent header, continuing her fine form. It was a similar header to the one that won the Milan derby for Inter at the weekend.

Italy soon found themselves in dreamland. Giugliano’s corner was flicked on by Cambiaghi at the near post to the unmarked Elena Linari who tapped in, making it 3-1 with 25 minutes left to play.

The expected onslaught began as Teresa Abelleira hit the bar from range and Esther Gonzalez failed to make anything of the rebound. Spain did unpick the lock with 15 minutes to go, though, as a smart run and finish from Gonzalez made it 3-2. Italy would not lie down, Aurora Galli forcing a great save from Cata Coll soon after the goal.

How the Nations League group looks

Italy Women’s Giulia Dragoni on the ball. [@AzzurreFIGC]

There was a surprising result earlier in the night as Switzerland beat Sweden 1-0, which was both positive and negative for Italy depending on their ambition.

The Swiss winning provided a bigger chance of Italy being beaten to third place and getting relegated, but Sweden losing meant there was more chance of ending the group above the team that finished third in the 2023 World Cup.

By beating Spain, Italy are now level on points with Sweden and have a serious chance of finishing second. More importantly, they have avoided relegation League B, even if they were to lose against Switzerland in Parma on Tuesday, December 5.


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