By Joan Grey
Giulia Dragoni balances playing in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup for Italy with schooling commitments.
Dragoni debuted in the World Cup at just 16, starting in the midfield for Italy’s opening 1-0 victory against Argentina at Auckland’s Eden Park.
On Wednesday night, Dragoni and her Italy team play South Africa in Wellington, needing a win to secure a place in the tournament’s Round of 16.
The Italian team have been based at Birkenhead United’s Shepherds Park during their stay in New Zealand.
Main photo: Giulia Dragoni … ‘Training. Always training.’
Wonderkid Dragoni has two more years of schooling
Nicknamed ‘Little Messi’ by teammates, it seemed felicitous for Dragoni to make her World Cup debut against Argentina, Lionel Messi’s home country.
Dragoni is the second youngest player in the 2023 tournament and etched her name in history as Italy’s youngest player ever in a FIFA Women’s World Cup.
(The youngest is South Korea’s Casey Yu-jin Phair who played against Colombia, aged 16 years and 26 days).
Fittingly Dragoni wears the number 16, which corresponds to her age.
The young starlet plays for FC Barcelona Femení and coincidentally boards at the same youth residence as Messi attended.
Italy’s school-leaving age is 18, and Dragoni has two more years of schooling.
‘ … a really good, talented player’
At FC Barcelona, she trains in the mornings and completes schoolwork in the evenings.
How did she reach international level at such a young age?
“Training. Always training. There’s nothing else to it,” she told Friends of Football after the match against Argentina.
“I have a lot of pressure because I’m only 16. People are always watching me and saying that I’m too young and things like that, but my teammates are the best.”
Veteran Italian forward Barbara Bonansea was full of praise for her teammate Dragoni.
“It’s like a dream come true for a baby like her. She tries to learn from us, and she’s a really good, talented player,” Bonansea said.
Games to be played on Wednesday August 2, 2023
South Africa v Italy
Sky Stadium, Wellington, 7pm (NZT)
Argentina v Sweden
FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, 7pm (NZT)