The Italy Women’s National Team were left wondering what could have been in Sweden as a late equaliser from Juventus defender Linda Sembrant meant the Azzurre drew 1-1 on Tuesday evening in UEFA Women’s Nations League A: Group 4.
In what has proved to be an overall positive international break for Italy in terms of defensive performance, Andrea Soncin‘s team were unable to hold onto victory with the stoppage-time header from Sembrant stopping what would have been a truly impressive victory.
Having narrowly lost to world champions Spain earlier in the international break, there is reason for Azzurre fans to be cautiously optimistic about the future.
Italy almost get revenge against Sweden
In Malmo on Tuesday night, Italy played their second Nations League game in a handful of days and this one so nearly ended with a crucial three points.
Italy had a decent number of openings in the first half of the game and Sweden, World Cup bronze medal winners in 2023, struggled to put any real pressure on the Azzurre who started the game with an attacking line of Valentina Giacinti, Michela Cambiaghi and Agnese Bonfantini.
Italy actually had five shots on target during the game and 12 altogether. It was Giacinti who broke the deadlock just before the hour mark as she superbly took down a pass from AS Roma teammate Manuela Giugliano and slotted the ball past Chelsea’s Zecira Musovic.
Sweden began to intensify the pressure from that point on and it therefore was not the biggest shock when Juventus Women centre-back Sembrant rose highest to head in a free-kick in the 96th minute, a free kick that Musovic had gone up for.
Despite not getting the win, some in the Italy squad may feel they have exorcised the demons from the 5-0 thrashing that Sweden handed the Azzurre in the group stage of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. That was a real low point for Italy, but this was a much better performance and result.
Soncin said after the game that Italy should not just be content with losing or drawing whilst performing well but admitted that the team should be praised for this international window.
“The girls put in a great performance. I had said that we should not be satisfied with just applause, but applause must really be given. The team is growing with a precise identity, with a clear spirit. Even though we changed some players, today put in an important performance. We have the ability to play matches on equal terms even against teams of the highest level, like Spain and Sweden,” Soncin said to the press.
Improvements under Soncin, Spain remain out of reach
The first game for Italy in this international break was at home against Spain in Salerno. It was only an 89th-minute goal from Jenni Hermoso that secured victory for the world champions.
The fact that Italy held Spain out for so long was extremely impressive, so to then build on that against another elite team in Sweden with a draw that could so easily have been a win means that this Nations League campaign suddenly looks a lot better, even if it isn’t through an abundance of points.
Italy are four points ahead of Switzerland in the relegation spot with two games to play, and only three points behind Sweden in second. They will not be getting into the finals though, as Spain are too far up the road with eight points more than Italy.
The next game comes against Spain in early December in Pontevedra on the country’s northwest coast. Then the showdown in Parma against Switzerland on December 5, a game where both teams may be at risk of relegation.