FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023. Group G Saturday 29 July | Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington Sweden v Italy

The match

Sweden overcame a huge scare in their opening FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023ℱ match and they will be determined to improve in their second fixture in Group G.

A 90th-minute winner from Amanda Ilestedt secured the Swedes a 2-1 win over South Africa but they had to do it the hard way after coming from behind to take the points and they are likely to face a sterner test against Italy.

 

For their part, Italy also left it late in their opening match of the tournament as substitute Cristiana Girelli made an almost instant impact after being introduced by scoring an 87th-minute winner against Argentina.

Team news

Sweden headed into their opening game with a string of injury concerns and coach Peter Gerhardsson will have to assess his squad. Fridolina Rolfo has been recovering from a knee injury and was also dealing with illness in the build-up to the South Africa game. She scored the equaliser in that match before being substituted midway through the second half.

 

Amanda Ilestedt’s thigh issue did not prevent her playing the full match against South Africa but fellow defender Linda Sembrant was not involved after failing to finish a training session leading into the contest. Caroline Seger has been struggling with calf injuries in recent months but she did feature late on from the bench, although it is unlikely she will start. In contrast, Italy appear to have no major issues and so Mirena Bertolini’s main decisions will be around whether to retain 16-year-old Giulia Dragoni in the XI and, while also making a decision on Cristiana Girelli.

 

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Players to watch

Amanda Ilestedt An unlikely match-winner for Sweden in their opening game against South Africa, Ilestedt but will have an equally-important role to play in shutting out Italy. The defender, who has joined Arsenal from Paris Saint-Germain this summer, will need all her experience to keep a lively Italian forward line quiet. And if she pops up with another timely goal, all the better for Sweden.

Giulia Dragoni Nicknamed ‘Little Messi’, Dragoni belied her youth to produce a fine display in Italy’s opening group game against Argentina, showing heart and quality in midfield. The 16-year-old’s touch and passing are impeccable, while her ability to pirouette away from trouble is exceptional. Dragoni said: “I don’t feel any pressure because I know my value. People know me. I’m very confident and patient.”

Facts and figures

  • Sweden have won seven and drawn three of their last 11 Women’s World Cup group-stage matches.

  • Caroline Seger’s appearance against South Africa saw her become the first player to feature in five Women’s World Cup editions for Sweden.

  • Italy have kept six clean sheets in their 13 Women’s World Cup matches.

  • Giulia Dragoni’s appearance against Argentina saw her become the youngest player to represent Italy at the Women’s World Cup at the age of 16 years and 259 days.

 

 

Quotes

“If you have a feeling that there’s a possibility for you to win the trophy, that’s a nice feeling to have. That’s true for us as a team and also for the Swedish people. It’s a good feeling to believe that you can go all the way. I like it! It’s clear though that this is a very open World Cup, with lots of teams that could win. Looking in Europe especially, you can see that many, many countries are getting much stronger. And that’s positive. It’s tougher than ever to win this World Cup – but it should be tough!” Peter Gerhardsson, Sweden coach “Cristiana is a leader, a captain of this group. She is always there and we know what she can give. We are very happy. We know how important it is to start such a tournament well. Giulia is a talent of Italian football. She was ready and she did well playing in a big stadium. If they are here, it is because they deserve it.” Milena Bertolini, Italy coach

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