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Soccer: new drama for Italy which misses its qualification for the World Cup

MILAN – When Italy missed the last World Cup, it was a disaster for soccer across the country.

Miss another? There are really no words to accurately describe it.

“NOOOOOOOOO! ” headlined in large letters, Friday, the newspaper Tuttosportwith all nine of those “O’s” spanning the entire front page.

The Italians, who won the European Championship just eight months ago, can really only blame themselves for missing out on qualifying for this year’s World Cup in Qatar. The team failed to convert dozens of chances in Thursday’s 1-0 play-off semi-final loss to North Macedonia, with Aleksandar Trajkovski scoring in injury time to secure a stunning win for a country ranked 67th in the world.

“In Hell”, headlined the Corriere dello Sport on the front page.

Gazzetta dello Sport launched “Out of the world”.

The defeat in Palermo certainly came as a surprise to many, but it was also predictable for a side in rapid decline since beating England on penalties to win the Euro 2020 title last July.

The side that set winning records last year have won just two of their eight games since, including losing their first game in more than three years to Spain in the Nations League.

“Our triumph at the Euros was fully deserved. But then some of the luck we had in the tournament turned into total and complete bad luck, Italian coach Roberto Mancini said. I almost feel like conceding a goal at the last minute was in order.

” I do not know what to say. Maybe we shouldn’t even have come to this. »

Here’s a look at what went wrong for Italy this time around:

Missed chances

Italy were in complete control of their World Cup qualifying group until after Euro 2020. That’s when their attacking touch seemed to disappear.

The Azzurri have drawn four of their last five games and fell behind Switzerland for the only automatic qualifying position.

Missed chances cost them dearly in those games, especially against Bulgaria, where Italy managed 27 attempts to the opposition’s four and 71% possession, but nonetheless drew 1-1.

We witnessed the same problem during the qualifiers against North Macedonia. Italy managed 32 shots on goal while the visitors only managed four. One of them entered, allowing North Macedonia to advance to the playoff final against Portugal on Tuesday.

Italy’s lack of goals had Mancini so concerned that he brought in Mario Balotelli for a three-day training camp in January, three years after his last appearance for the Azzurri. He, however, dropped the controversial striker for the World Cup qualifiers.

Penalties

Penalties saved Italy at Euro 2020. The Italians beat Spain in the semi-finals and England in the final in a penalty shootout.

But two failed attempts by Jorginho in the qualifying matches against Switzerland ended up hurting badly. One match ended 0-0, the other 1-1.

Had Italy won either of those two matches, they would have finished ahead of Switzerland and secured automatic qualification for this year’s tournament in Qatar.

“Honestly, it’s difficult because we have to look at reality, and I’m getting into it too,” Jorginho said after Thursday’s game. It hurts when I think about the two penalties, because I still think about it and will think about it for the rest of my life, unfortunately.

“To go twice and not be able to help your team and your country is something I will carry with me forever, and it weighs on me so much. People now say we need to move on, but it still hurts. »

A-Series

The Italian national team’s recent poor form has been reflected at club level in Serie A.

Juventus and Inter Milan were knocked out of the Champions League in the round of 16, while AC Milan and Atalanta didn’t even make it past the group stage. No Italian club has won a European trophy since Inter won the Champions League in 2010.

Moreover, there is a clear discord between the clubs and the national team. Serie A has refused a request from the Italian football federation to change its schedule and move weekend league games before the qualifiers, which would have allowed Mancini to spend more time with his players.

“It is clear that there is still great resistance from the clubs towards the national team, recognized the president of the federation, Gabriele Gravina. The national team is seen more as an annoyance than as something that unites an entire country. »

Gravina acknowledged that institutional reforms were needed.

“Tonight’s defeat makes us realize that something has to be done in Italian football,” he added. For example, let’s start by determining what we can do for the many young people who do not have opportunities in our leagues and how we can fill this gap. »

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