Experimental Azzurre left with more questions than answers after final 2023 Women’s World Cup warm-up game

Milena Bertolini made a number of surprise inclusions in her Italy XI as the Azzurre played their final warm-up game ahead of the Women's World Cup, but a lot of the doubts she had before facing Morocco are likely still to be resolved with no time to spare.

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STADIO PAOLO MAZZA (Ferrara): Italy‘s final 2023 Women’s World Cup warm-up game didn’t go quite as planned on Saturday, with the Azzurre only managing a goalless draw with Morocco in Ferrara. Italy will now await Milena Bertolini’s final 23-player squad to make the trip to New Zealand before making the trip.

In what was a more-than-experimental XI chosen by Bertolini, it wouldn’t be worthwhile trying go read too much into the Azzurre‘s overall performance as a unit in Ferrara, even taking into account that Morocco are the second-lowest ranking of any team to have qualified this summer and that 56 places separate the two sides in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Rankings. At no point on the evening was there an XI that is likely to ever be together again, and a lot more of the focus was on working out what players will make the final 23-player squad.

From the start, Francesca Durante was given a chance to impress in goal after being named Serie A Femminile’s Goalkeeper of the Season, while Sassuolo’s Benedetta Orsi was opted for at the centre of a back three. In midfield, Fiorentina’s Emma Severini was given the nod and the exciting Juventus youngster Chiara Beccari was chosen to accompany Martina Piemonte – the AC Milan forward herself maybe not a guarantee for the final 23 – in attack. 

Azzurre goalkeeper Francesca Durante in action for the Italy Women’s National Team. (Photo: Getty)

Bertolini said in her press conference prior to the game that there were “still some doubts remaining [about the final 23-player squad]” and that she hoped “to have them settled in Ferrara”, but the game at the Paolo Mazza didn’t make her decisions any easier to make although some players did show examples of what they can offer.

Some chances taken, some sparks shown

Azzurre defender Benedetta Orsi in action for the Italy Women’s National Team. (Photo: Getty)

Of those surprise inclusions, it was Durante and Orsi who showed an inarguable level and readiness to be part of the group, and maybe the first XI at the World Cup. The Inter goalkeeper wasn’t overly worked by shots, but Morocco ventured forward enough for her to have things to do and she looked comfortably in command of her area. 

The same can be said of Orsi who, with Martina Lenzini and Elena Linari by her side, had no issues directing things at the back and was often Bertolini’s point of reference to pass on instructions from the sideline, even as the least experienced and least decorated of the three.

Beccari bright in bursts

Azzurre forward Chiara Beccari in action for the Italy Women’s National Team. (Photo: Getty)

It wasn’t really a game for forwards, and Chiara Beccari wasn’t able to be as involved as she would have hoped to be. The early stages showed that she might have some joy playing off the imposing Piemonte as the Milan forward dominated everybody trying to mark her, but as the game progressed it was the teenager who was looking to get on the ball more in deeper positions, running the channels and being as direct as we saw from her at Como Women during her breakout 2022/23 campaign.

Left on for the start of the second half, with Piemonte replaced by Valentina Giacinti, Beccari showed a good understanding with the AS Roma no.9 and set her up twice in a matter of moments, the first a fine through ball that Giacinti would have expected to convert from. She was then replaced by Barbara Bonansea, a guarantee to make the final cut.

With Sofia Cantore left on the bench all evening, Beccari might feel that she has the edge over her Juventus teammate if it comes down to being a straight choice between them to make the cut to travel to New Zealand.

Azzurre coach Milena Bertolini. (Photo: Getty)

The Dragoni surprise

Despite her inexperience and age, Giulia Dragoni’s name isn’t unfamiliar to anybody the world of Italian women’s football, but few would have expected the 16-year-old to be in contention for a place at the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Her inclusion in the 32-player squad wasn’t necessarily a shock even considering her relatively non-existent first-team experience, but the Barcelona Femeni second-team player was introduced at half time.

Dragoni is thought of as one of Italy’s hottest young talents in the women’s game, and that has been true since her Inter days, and although she came across as timid when she didn’t halve the ball in the second half, her flashes when in possession will give Bertolini more food for thought than even she might have anticipated having by this point. 

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