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Cristiana Girelli is definitely one of Italy’s best strikers who has been fundamental to the Italian national team in the 2019’s FIFA World Cup, and who used to play for Bardolino, before moving to Brescia where she shined and scored 98 goals, which led her to her current team, Juventus. After 15 years of professional football, Girelli is still performing effectively on the pitch and contributing to the wins of her team with experience, talent and consistency.
In this tactical analysis article, we will be exploring Girelli’s role in Juventus’ tactics, while carrying an analysis of her significant movements and individual skills to constitute a complete scout report.
Role at Juventus
It is enough to say that Girelli is the Serie A Women top scorer in the 2019/2020 season with 16 goals in 16 played matches to realise the talent of this 30-year-old woman. She is highly relied on in the Juventus formation since she is the team’s main forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which means that Girelli is the one responsible for both scoring the highest numbers of goals and holding defenders when the ball is with midfielders to pave the way for them to shoot or penetrate into the penalty area.
There is no doubt that even though Girelli plays as the team’s only forward, she is consistently supported mainly by Martina Rosucci, the trequartista, and the two wingers. These three players help in assisting from crosses and passes to Girelli as they also help her when she presses high on defenders and goalkeepers.
Therefore, although Girelli appears to be left alone in the final third, she does definitely get the support needed from her teammates as asked from Juventus’ manager.
These days, more and more teams are relying heavily on defending with 11 players and using forwards as the team’s highest line of defence and pressing. Girelli is one of those forwards who always do their best to win back possession and prevent build-up play, leaving the goalkeeper or defenders with one sole option; long-balls that could end up with the pressing team.
Even in important matches, Juventus use this tactic to disturb the opposition and Girelli often executes her defensive mission effectively. During an away Women’s Champions League match against Barcelona, Juventus were courageous enough to press high on their opponent’s defence.
Girelli, with the support of her teammates who also pressed on defenders, full-backs and the defensive midfielder, was smart to use all her speed to press on the goalkeeper. This was in an attempt to confuse her and make her lose the ball, without forgetting about closing passing lanes to the centre-back who is behind her. This defensive action proved successful since the goalkeeper gave away a long-ball to Juventus players due to the disturbance of Girelli.
Unlike other forwards who contribute to the pressing effort of the team only at the beginning of the game or only once per game, Girelli makes sure to press especially on goalkeepers in every possible chance and mainly when she feels a pressing effort would be fruitful. This following example shows how Girelli once again made life harder for Barcelona’s goalkeeper and obliged her to launch a desperate long-ball since all the surrounding players were marked by Juventus’ midfielders in addition to Girelli.
In addition to pressing high on the field, Girelli does also retreat to help the team defend set-pieces and create numerical superiority when marking. For instance, in this corner-kick, we can see Girelli standing at the near post and waiting for Barcelona’s players to run towards that area and at the same time intending to anticipate the ball before it reaches one of them.
A modern poacher
With 16 scored goals in 16 matches, Girelli confirms once again her talent as one of Italy’s best and rare female poachers. She has got the skills needed for finishing the attacking action successfully either by a well-oriented header or also by using her accurate shots.
In a match against Inter Milan, Girelli escaped her direct opponent’s marking and positioned herself in the right place to receive a cross from a teammate and convert it in a beautiful goal. What is worth mentioning about this goal other than Girelli’s positioning, is her header technique and power.
Although the defender who aimed to reach the ball before her has probably disturbed her concentration, she was able to direct the ball perfectly with her head to place it in the far post, a spot which the goalkeeper can’t reach since everyone including the goalkeeper did not expect Girelli to hit the far post while she is at the near post.
Girelli’s headers have been very accurate and powerful this year even when she was not allowed much room for movement and when she was subject to close marking, like in the match against Roma in which she scored a header from a free-kick played towards her. And even though Roma’s defender did her best to prevent Girelli from touching the ball, this latter was able to handle that marking and convert that chance into a goal, which made the defender’s attempts look useless.
Apart from handling marking and excelling in headers, Girelli has got a poacher’s sense of the goal, which is an essential characteristic of this type of forwards. Girelli smells goals and always tries to get the best of half-opportunities or even mistakes of the opposition defence. And this has helped her score many goals including the following one against Fiorentina.
The whole action originated from a long-pass from Fiorentina’s centre-back to her goalkeeper when Girelli noticed that the ball went high and that the goalkeeper is hesitant to grab it at once, she anticipated the ball, and more importantly the defender who did not see her running. The goalkeeper then wasn’t able to completely catch the ball and it touched the ground and went up again and in those seconds of rebound, Girelli was able to run past the defender and hit the ball to score a goal from nothing.
Ball protection and dribbling skills
Girelli did not only play as a forward, but she has also played as an attacking midfielder in the past, which explains why she is good with the ball at her feet. In fact, in addition to being a threat in the box, Girelli can also be considered as an advanced forward who helps in ball protection but also dribbles and makes assists for her teammates.
In this 2019/2020 season, Girelli has won 59.6% of 1vs1 dribbling attempts, which is a good percentage for a forward. She usually gets out of difficult situations especially when surrounded by two or three players trying to steal the ball from her. You can see in this example for instance how she protects the ball by orienting her body to cover it before passing it to a teammate.
Another very important facet of Girelli is the individual dribbling skills that enable her to get past defenders many times and create a real danger to opposition defences. She executed a very beautiful sombrero in a match against Inter, leaving two defenders behind her and turning things upside down for Inter since she was surrounded by those two defenders who were almost sure of stealing the ball.
But the impressive skill of Girelli enabled her to find herself alone in the box before passing the ball to her teammate who scored a goal that was created thanks to Girelli’s individual effort.
Girelli has been and is still one of Italy’s most creative and realistic forwards at the same time since she combines smartness and creativity with pure talent and simplicity in front of the goal. With such characteristics, Girelli still has got something to say in the world of Women’s football in the next few years given that she continues with the same determination and willingness to give her all with Juventus and Italy mainly in Serie A Women, Women’s Champions League, European Championships and also in the next FIFA Women’s World Cup.