The unimaginable has happened. One of the biggest football nations, the Azzurri of Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958. This is a country that has won four World Cup trophies, second to only Brazil.
“What went wrong?” has been the question on the lips of football lovers all around the world. Many can’t still believe that Italy would not be in Russia. Many Pundits have opined that it would surely be a strange World Cup without Italy.
People have also asked why a country with the best coaches in the world would appoint someone like Gian Piero Ventura who never coached in the top flight of Italian football in his coaching career, spanning 40 years. The 70 year old coach had no experience at the highest level prior to his appointment on June 7, 2016, as a replacement for Antonio Conte, following UEFA Euro 2016.
The last three English Premier League titles were won by Italian coaches. Namely: Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini and Antonio Conte. Last season, four Italians won league titles across Europe. Two Italians were nominated among the best three coaches in the World. This is a country that has produced, Marcelo Lippi, Giovanni Trapattoni, Arrigo Sacchi and so on. Ventura has since resigned as a result of the disgrace.
The president of Italian Football Federation, Carlo Tavecchio is being blamed till today for appointing Ventura, a man with no experience at the highest level to manage the Azzurri. There are reports that the controversial politician wanted to be fully in charge of the team selection that was why he appointed someone that would easily dance to his tune.
Italy’s defensive midfielder Daniele De Rossi was furious with the coach when he asked him to take to the field when Italy desperately needed to score against Sweden. While Italy needed an offensive player off the bench, the coach preferred De Rossi who is a defensive midfielder. De Rossi disobeyed the coach insisting that Lorenzo Insigne, the in-form Napoli attacker should be introduced instead. De Rossi said, who clearly wasn’t happy with the coach described the mood of the players after the game. He said, “Italy locker room was like a funeral home after we failed to qualify.”
However, team Captain; Gianluigi Buffon doesn’t believe the coach should take all the blame. He says, “The blame should be on everyone. There is no scapegoat.”
The legendary goal keeper planned to retire after the World Cup in Russia. With this failure, it will happen sooner than later.
The decline of Italian football has been obvious since 2010 World Cup in South Africa for all to see. Since Italy won the World Cup in Germany 2006 in a brilliant fashion, they have been going down on the world stage. In 2010, they were knocked out of the group stage as defending champions. In 2014, Italy did not make it out of the group stage of the competition.
Not qualifying for the World Cup in Russia was just the nail in the coffin.. The coach has resigned. That is the right step in the right direction. The team needs to be rejigged as there are many tired legs out there. Buffon is 39 years old; Andrea Barzagli is 36, Giorgio Chiellini 33, Leanardo Bonucci 30, Danile De Rossi, 34. It is clearly an aging squad. They have to go to the drawing board and build for the future.
The next major competition is in 2020. It may seem far, but funny how time flies. Italy needs to start early preparations for that competition. They have some decent young players in Lorenzo Insigne, Marco Veratti, Andrea Belotti and Jorge Luiz Frello Filho, best known as Jorginho.
Speaking of Jorginho, he was the best player on the pitch against Sweden. The coach has been criticized for not fielding Jorginho throughout the qualifiers. Fans wondered how a player who is making Napoli tick at the moment be left on the bench for too long. Jorginho is responsible for making Napoli play by far the best football in the Italian league. His pass accuracy is second to none in the league. With Jorginho, any team is assured of more possession on the ball.
This may be a disaster, but it has been one waiting to happen. Some pundits in Italy see this as a blessing in disguise. While the world will miss Italy in Russia, they (Italy) need to see the positive side of this by building a team for the future. There is no need crying over spilt milk.
It took Germany many years to build the World Cup winning team of 2014. It wasn’t a year’s job. In the case of Germany, they didn’t fail to qualify before putting a good youth system in place, which saw them win the World Cup in 2014. They were humiliated in the quarter finals of France 98 by Croatia an underdog team then. After France 98, they had to do away with the aging players. If Germany could do it, Italy can do it.
It is time to say arivadecci (goodbye) to the veterans and move on. Like Germany also, instead of politicians, football pundits in Italy are calling for former footballers to be at the helm of the Italian Football Federation.