Italy vs. Estonia: Italians to Watch in Women's World Cup Qualifier
Italy and Estonia will kickoff their World Cup qualifying group stage on Friday as the two nations take to the A. Le Coq Arena pitch in Estonia.
It's only been a couple of months since Germany took the continental championship, and now Europe's female soccer powers are back at it with the hopes of qualifying for a trip to Canada and the 2015 World Cup.
Italy was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the European Championship. However, that loss did come to eventual champion Germany, and it was a well-played 1-0 match.
That was the fourth straight time the Italians were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the European Championship.
In all, Italy turned in a solid showing by finishing the tournament with a win, two losses and a draw.
Italy's firepower should be enough to ward off Estonia. The Estonians have never qualified for the World Cup, and they have spent the majority of this year just trying to keep matches close.
So, with that in mind, I'm going to focus on Italy for this match. Here are a couple of players worth keeping an eye on.
Patrizia Panico is the heart and soul of this team and for good reason. She's been a member of the international squad since 1996 and has more caps than any other Italian woman.
With a career that has taken her to SS Lazio, Torino CF, Modena Amadio, ACF Milan, ASD Bardolino, and Sky Blue FC, she has been through it all on the pitch.
Panico is a prolific goal scorer. She has led Serie A in scoring in 10 different seasons.
As great as she is, the 38-year-old can't play forever, and I expect her to do everything she can to go out with a flourish.
So, as we just discussed, Panico cannot play forever. That means Italy needs to start identifying new places to earn some goals.
Cristiana Girelli would be a good place to start. A member of CF Bardolino in Serie A, Girelli has top-flight experience and a solid track record. The 23-year-old was fifth in scoring for Serie A in the 2010-11 season and she's been a consistent performer.
Girelli is not the most prolific scorer, but she is a well-rounded player. This match should provide a great opportunity for her to flash all her skills.
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