Join us on this journey as we dish out the inside scoop on each squad's strengths, weaknesses, players to keep an eye on and what a pass mark might be for each nation.
Next up, we look at Group G team, Italy.
FIFA Women's World Cup Appearances: 4 (1991, 1999, 2011, 2019)
Best performance at a FIFA Women's World Cup: Quarter-finals (1991, 2019)
Players to watch
When looking as far as a star player for Italy, it's difficult to look any further than its top scorer in the squad, Cristiana Girelli. The 33-year-old has an impressive conversion rate of 53 goals in 102 appearances and will be hoping to crack into the late 50s before the tournament is over. The Juventus forward is the star of the Serie A and the focal point of what's a very dangerous Italian team when they're on song.
An often-used analogy in professional sports is strength from top to bottom and usually we'd be alluding to a strong all-round team (which Italy is), but in this instance, we're talking about the aforementioned forward, Girelli and the impressive goalkeeper Laura Giuliani. She started every game of their 2019 World Cup campaign, and after years at the top of the Italian leagues, Giuliani is only now hitting her prime and will be wanting to complement her star striker with a rock solid performance in goal.
The Italy side have the added benefit of having all their players based in Italy domestically. That level of familiarity whether as teammates or as opposition lends itself a unique chemistry that many other teams in the tournament simply would not quite have.
The one player who does not fit this trend but could end up having a significant impact is 26-year-old midfielder, Aurora Galli. Galli was the first Italian football player to sign for a Women's Super League team and has represented Italy's senior team since she was just 18 years old. The hardworking midfielder will be familiar with many of the stars of the tournament and that in turn could provide an edge that Italy lacked in 2019.
Some Group G teams have had mixed form heading into the tournament, including Italy suffering two losses in February to Belgium and England respectively. Italy has however won its last two international outings against South Korea and Columbia and will be looking to carry a winning streak into its New Zealand group stage fixtures.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: As alluded to early in the piece, the Italian team have a sense of chemistry and comradery that will likely be the envy of many teams in the competition. Three Juventas and three AS Roma teammates have over 30 caps for their nation so not only are they familiar with each other at the domestic level, but also for their national side. This also features some of their most talented players including superstar Girelli. Complement that with a near six-year tenured coach and you see a team with extremely impressive cohesion as a unit.
Weaknesses: For Italy, its struggle is getting consistent results against European counterparts. Le Azzurre crashed out of the Euro 2022 last year without a win and tend to struggle against other continental competition. With Sweden in its group and likely many other European teams advancing to the knockout stages, that mental obstacle could ultimately prove too much for Italy during the World Cup.
This may be viewed as a rather lenient pass mark but in light of their Euro performance and their early 2023 form, a pass in this tournament for Le Azzurre will be advancing to the knockout stages. This won't necessarily be an easy feat as Group G is one of the most competitive ones on paper. However, as we end up saying all too often, football is not played on paper and if Italy manage a positive result against Sweden, then perhaps the side could shock a few and advance to the late stages of the tournament.