Italy squad take aim at Milena Bertolini after 2023 Women’s World Cup elimination: “We were never afraid, it is legitimate to ask questions”

It's hard to see a way back for Milena Bertolini as Italy coach. After her claims that the Azzurre were afraid and their own worst enemies in their Women's World Cup elimination, the squad have unanimously hit out at and challenged the 57-year-old

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The Italy Women’s National Team once again crashed out of a major tournament at the very first hurdle this summer as their loss to South Africa saw them eliminated from Group G of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. The Azzurre had won their opening game against Argentina, but a hammering against Sweden complicated their path to the knockout rounds before losing their final group fixture.

This failure to progress in New Zealand comes after a diabolical European Championship in England a year earlier, after which fingers were already being pointed at Milena Bertolini. Then, her initial squad selection raised eyebrows and similar has happened this year. Sara Gama‘s exclusion from the 23-player squad, in particular, was controversial, as were her starting XIs and consistent overlooking of Giada Greggi, Cristiana Girelli, Annamaria Serturini, and others throughout the 2023 Women’s World Cup group stage.

Italy Women’s National Team midfielder Manuela Giugliano reacts after a loss at the Women’s World Cup. (@Azzurri_en)

Just over 24 hours after the loss to South Africa, and following Bertolini‘s post-match comments in which she said that her players were “afraid” and that their “main opponent was not South Africa but ourselves”, the Azzurre players shared identical posts on their respective social media accounts.

Italy Women’s National Team take aim at FIGC and coach Bertolini

Each of the Italy players, including captain Cristiana Girelli and vice-captain Barbara Bonansea, shared the post, quite evidently aimed at outgoing coach Bertolini with the caption: “With anger and sorrow we are sharing our own point of view,” and the full statement is as follows:

“We girls have always faced up and never shied away. Never.

“We have always taken responsibility.

“This time, however, we would like to express our point of view.

“We still feel immense regret because we had a huge desire for redemption at this World Cup. We knew that we were coming into this tournament after a disappointing European Championship and we had learned from our mistakes.

“A lot of comments were made last night [the night of the South Africa loss], but the only thing that we agree with is that which said that ‘this group do not lack an understanding of one another’.

“We were never afraid, but we felt very little trust in us.

Italy Women’s National Team forward Sofia Cantore reacts after a loss at the Women’s World Cup. (@Azzurri_en)

“What we had was not enough because on the pitch it was clear that something was missing. In this National Team there is a group of 16 girls from Juventus and AS Roma, who achieved great things in the Women’s Champions League.

“So, then, we think it is legitimate to ask why a team made up of that group of players, and completed with players from other top teams and with talented youngsters, struggled so much at a European Championship and then at a World Cup.”

“We are convinced that we could have achieved different results if only we had been put in the position and given the conditions to do so.

“We will work even harder to improve at international level and mistakes can always be learned from. We hope for a future that is getting ever closer, at this point of growth in women’s football, in which we can express ourselves to the maximum and represent our country to the best of our ability.”

Milena Bertolini‘s contract as Italy Women’s National Team coach expires at the end of the World Cup campaign.

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