This article is part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Expert Network, a cooperation between some of the top media organizations from the 16 countries that have qualified. theguardian.com is streaming daily previews from two countries ahead of the tournament which begins on July 6.
The team that impressed the world by surprisingly reaching the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup is back, with the same core of players and some young tyros. It could be the last chance for this golden generation to make their mark, but in some ways a European Championship could be even tougher than a World Cup and the bookmakers consider Italy to be eight favorite teams for the tournament.
Italy qualified after dropping points only to eventual group winners Denmark, conceding just five goals and scoring 37 in a group including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Malta, Israel and Georgia. Nine of those goals were scored by Juventus striker Cristiana Girelli. Qualification was only confirmed in the last group match, played in Florence against Israel. The Azure had to win by a two-goal margin to avoid the playoffs as one of the second-place teams with the best records. They won 12-0.
“At the European Championship, the Italians have to support us and encourage us,” said coach Milena Bertolini. “However, we have to work hard. It will be a great Euro for the quality of the game and a new opportunity for women’s football to develop. We have to go there as prepared as possible, making sacrifices, but the girls know that. I see a great soul in this national team.
Tactically, Italy usually play in a 4-3-3 formation, with Manuela Giugliano a deep playmaker in midfield. The three attackers, led by Girelli, are dynamic and mobile, changing position.