Before the tournament everyone was talking about Australia as potential dark horses, then there was Brazil. Amazing Brazil, out of form Brazil, injury hit Brazil. So too Jamaica, Bob Marley’s daughter and Bunny Shaw but somewhere along the way, Italy got forgotten about.
Away from the World Cup for 20 years, flying under the radar played right into the hands of Milena Bertolini and the whole Italy squad. The side one that has come along leaps and bounds under their new coach, the Azzurre barely recognisable from the disappointing team Antoni Cabrini assembled for the 2017 Euros.
Maybe you already knew Barbara Bonansea, who announced herself to the wider audience two years ago, the inconsistent attacker one of the stars of the team but still just one of XI (or 23).
With a growing home league in Italy and more established men’s teams buying out the licences of pre-existing Serie A teams, switching to a full time or professional status, the national team is reaping the rewards.
Italy aren’t going to win the World Cup (or are they…?) but the progress made by Bertolini in a short space of time shouldn’t be overlooked. The aggressively attacking style a long way from what casual fans might expect but it’s a system that gets the best from the players she has – and rarely fails to delight.
Much like China, Italy are proving themselves a force this summer and shouldn’t be overlooked.
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