Milena Bertolini to leave position as Italy Women’s National Team coach after disappointing 2023 World Cup

Milena Bertolini will not continue as coach of the Italy Women's National Team following the Azzurre's failure to advance from yet another major tournament group phase at the 2023 Women's World Cup.

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Milena Bertolini has confirmed that her time as Italy Women’s National Team coach has come to an end after six years. With her contract as Azzurre boss expiring after this 2023 Women’s World Cup campaign, Bertolini has confirmed that she will not continue in her position after yet another failed tournament.

Italy failed to advance from Group G in Australia and New Zealand, despite winning their opening game against Argentina in what was seen as something of a shootout for second place behind group favourites Sweden. 

The Azzurre, though, ended the group in third place behind Sweden and South Africa, with the latter beating Italy in their final Group G fixture thanks to a late goal that sent Bertolini and her side packing. A draw would have been enough to see the Azzurre through.

Italy Women’s National Team coach Milena Bertolini and forward Chiara Beccari react after a loss at the Women’s World Cup. (@Azzurri_en)

Bertolini confirms her departure as Italy Women’s National Team coach

Following the loss to South Africa, Bertolini spoke to the press and confirmed that she would not be extending her contract to remain in charge of the Azzurre. It was not specified whether or not an offer had been made to her.

“My future isn’t as important as the movement [of women’s football],” Bertolini said. “That is more important and it will continue to grow. 

“I hope that I have left a legacy behind me with this young team, a team that have now gained significant experience.”

Bertolini took the reins as Italy coach in 2017, succeeding Antonio Cabrini. She led Italy to consecutive World Cups in 2019 and in 2023, equalling the Azzurre‘s best-ever performance in 2019 by guiding the side to the quarter-finals. 

Azzurre coach Milena Bertolini poses with the Italy flag in celebration. (REUTERS/Alberto Lingria)

Questions were asked of her suitability for the role after a disastrous 2022 European Championship in England, though, with Italy finishing bottom of a group that they would have hoped to qualify from. A second straight failure at a major tournament has seen her time in charge of the Italy Women’s National Team come to an end.

Italy Women’s National Team players hit out at coach Bertolini and Italian Football Federation

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.

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.”

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