The FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) just kicked off in Australia and New Zealand yesterday. The 2023 edition is a historic one and the largest ever iteration of the tournament. There are a number of strong teams and numerous debutants to give it a real excitement. AC Milan Women do not have many representatives at the tournament but we have a handful of key players in key roles who will shape the tournament.
Milan had two shocking exclusions both by Italy as the Rossonere’s top scorer Martina Piemonte - who has just joined Everton - and captain Valentina Bergamaschi were not included in the WWC squad by Milena Bertolini.
Here is a look at the Rossonere fighting for silverware with their respective national teams:
Sara Thrige Andersen - Denmark
Sara has been a strong performer for Milan in her first two seasons at the club. She had 1 goal and 3 assists this past season playing almost every game. The powerhouse fullback has just renewed her deal with Milan keeping her with us until 2025.
The Danes are back at the WWC for the first time since 2007 but were the Euros runners up in 2017. They will be led by Pernille Harder but have a difficult group with current Euro champions England as well as debutants Haiti and direct contenders China. Denmark will have a tough time getting to the knockouts but this is undoubtedly the goal.
Laura Giuliani - Italy
Giuliani is Italy’s no. 1 and will have her hands full in a tricky group for the outfit. The shot-stopper has just completed her second season with the Rossoneri and has 18 league clean sheets. The 30 year is one of the more experienced players in the squad and will play a crucial role in Italy’s potential run in the competition.
Italy have Sweden, Argentina and South Africa in their group which means they face a number of top notch attacking sides. Italy have never made it to the final four of a WWC but will have to aim to get out of the group first as they did not manage this in the previous euros. Italy tend to struggle in front of goal so the defence will be key to their progression in the tournament.
Kosovare Asllani - Sweden
Asllani had a big first season with the Rossoneri joining from Real Madrid. She scored 10 goals in 18 games despite missing a number of games. Asllani is a leader for her national team as captain but also as an attacker having scored 3 goals at the previous WWC. Sweden have a straightforward group with Italy, Argentina and South Africa but will likely have a tough round of 16 fixture with both the USA and Netherlands likely in the crosshairs.
Sweden made it to the semi finals of both the last World Cup and the Euros so will be a decent shout for a deep run. They have taken part in every single WWC so are experienced in the tournament and Asllani will be a key part of their run.
There are two Milan players with an asterisk at the tournament:
Aniek Nouwen - Netherlands
The young defender spent that past six months on loan at Milan from Chelsea FC and used the time to transform herself from an afterthought to one of the top performing defenders in the league. Nouwen played 11 games and earned her spot with the Dutch national team as a result.
Her side share a group with the defending champions USA, new challengers Portugal and debutants Vietnam. The group should be fairly straightforward for them but the group has the potential to trip up one of the tournament favourites. The team is without their talisman Miedema and have a new coach so they will be a bit of a wild card for a deep run but the Dutch are experienced having made it to the final of the last WWC.
Valentina Cernoia - Italy
The former Juventus midfielder has just joined the Rossoneri and will be a huge player for Italy at the WWC. Cernoia is the most experienced in this squad and has an impressive 14 international goals which is more than all of their attack combined. She has over 60 national caps and will be the one to watch for them.
As above, Italy have a tricky group given their poor performing front line on the national level. The defence will have to be resolute and the strikers will need to turn up to get out of the group and then press forward. Furthermore, they will likely face either the USA or the Netherlands in their round of 16 fixture if they get through.