Four time world champions Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup since 1958 after being ruled out in 2-leg playoff against Sweden.
The reason four time world champions landed in this position is bad luck and change in FIFA’s ranking system. Italy was drawn into same group as powerhouse Spain and Italy failed to win its own group first time since 1998 when they were drawn in the same group along with England.
But after watching Azzurri’s performance against Sweden the problem was deep inside rather then bad draw. Italy attempted 10 shots against Sweden in first leg out of which 5 came from inside the box. While Italy dominated the second leg and had 20 shots at goal, their exertions radiated a growing sense of desperation. Italy look more like a loser of the race rather then being a perennial power.
Italy hasn’t being playing like top tier European team
The hallmark of Italian football is ‘ruthless defense’ which hold the possession but never breaks at the back. But this defense looked vulnerable in the playoffs again Sweden which is perhaps no surprise considering the team’s aging backline. Defensive midfielder Daniele De Rossi (34 years old) and center back Andrea Barzagli (36) both made the squad for Italy’s World Cup winning squad in 2006, and Barzagli’s center-back partners Leonardo Bonucci (30) and Giorgio Chiellini (33) were on the squad in 2010. This defensive spine of 30 has held the possession well but looked vulnerable in direct counterattacks.
In the UEFA qualifying, Italy conceded 36 direct shots from counterattacks. Italy is flanked up by eliminated sides like Romania and Finland. This is not the company Italy should expect. This may be why Italian coach Gian Piero Ventura chose a 3-5-2 formation against Sweden, after playing a 4-4-2 in six of seven previous qualifying matches. The 3-5-2 features both an extra central midfielder and an extra center-back, compared to the 4-4-2, which should allow Italy to tight up in the middle of the pitch and prevent direct dangerous attacking moves. This lineup limited Swedish opportunities and broke up counters, but left Italy with little in the way of attacking drive.
End of an era, as Buffon retires
Gianluigi Buffon has issued a tearful apology to Italian people as Italy failed to qualify for World Cup 2018 in Russia.
The defeat also brings end of a 20-year long journey of Buffon with Italian natinol team. 39-year old apologized to fans and people of Italy after the final whistle was blown at San Siro.
“It is a shame that my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for the World Cup.” said the Italian Legend
Buffon’s Juventus team-mate Andrea Barzagli and Roma midfielder Daniele de Rossi also ended their Italy careers, while Juve defender Giorgio Chiellini is expected to join them. The quartet have won 461 caps between them.
Goalkeeper Buffon made 175 appearances for his country in a 20-year career – lifting the World Cup in 2006 – and believes the future could still be bright for the four-time world champions.
“There is certainly a future for Italian football because we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet,” he said.
His point was clearly towards 18-year old AC Milan’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnaruma.