Italy wins 1-0 against Argentina as 16-year-old ‘Little Messi’ Giulia Dragoni makes debut at Women’s World Cup

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The Women’s World Cup saw a moment that will live long in the memory for 16-year-old Giulia Dragoni as she started for Italy against Argentina on Monday.

Dragoni – born on November 7, 2006 – began the Group G clash in the heart of Italy’s midfield and became the youngest player to represent Italy in the competition’s history. She is the second-youngest European to play at the tournament, according to FIFA.

Nicknamed ‘Little Messi,’ Dragoni is wearing the No. 16 shirt – corresponding to her age.

In contrast, 39-year-old Vanina Correa was in goal for Argentina – she had already made her debut for her country when Dragoni was born.

And the teenager played a key part in Italy’s opening match against Argentina; the young Barcelona player provided energy and quality in the heart of the pitch before being substituted in the 83rd minute.

Italy – quarterfinalist in 2019 – was the strongest team throughout the opening game for both sides at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, with some late quality from Cristiana Girelli proving decisive as Italy won 1-0.

The opening first half was an even affair as both Arianna Caruso and Valentina Giacinti had goals disallowed for offside, just making their respective runs fractionally too early.

After the break, with both sides not wanting to lose their opening game, chances were few and far between with the teams prioritizing the avoidance of mistakes over attacking recklessness.

Vanina Correa in the Argentina goal was called into action to make a few routine stops but the midfield stalemate was the main contest with both sides canceling each other out for the most part.

Both managers tried to change the flow of the game by providing thrust from the bench – and it was an Italy substitute who made the difference.

Girelli, the oldest player in the Azzurre squad, replaced Dragoni late in the game and just a few minutes later showed why she’s become a legend for the nation, as her looping header gave Italy a late lead.

It was a moment of quality from Girelli, scoring her 54th international goal on her 104th appearance and, more importantly, giving Italy a vital three points to begin its World Cup campaign.

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