From the feel good heights of Italy’s quarterfinal run at Euro 2016, which only ended because of terrible penalties like the often meme’d one from Simone Zaza, the Azzurri have fallen to depths not seen in 60 years — not even Gigi Buffon was alive back then! — as for the first time since 1958, a World Cup will be held without Italy participating.
Two years ago, Conte’s squad at the Euros was hardly vintage quality, but he fostered great team spirit and rode that wave into the knockout rounds. The quality of the squad has only improved since, with plenty of talented, young players at Gian Piero Ventura’s disposal. If only he had chosen to use them!
Facing elimination after a 1-0 loss in Sweden in the first leg of their qualifying playoff, Ventura kept all four of Stephan El Shaarawy, Andrea Belotti, Federico Bernardeschi, and, most criminally of all, Lorenzo Insigne on the bench. Ventura then compounded his error by not even substituting on Insigne as Italy looked desperately for a goal, eventually failing to score despite 75 per cent possession and 26 shots.
xG map for Italy - Sweden. The Azzurri got a bunch of shots off, but this is not a performance to get the two or more goals needed. pic.twitter.com/g5M73Cz5XI— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) November 13, 2017
Credit to Sweden of course for some excellent and, as it is at times necessary in these sorts of games, lucky defending, but as the saying goes, you make your own luck and Italy insisted on making none for themselves.
Chelsea wing-back Davide Zappacosta was an innocent bystander on the bench to all his carnage.
Congrats to Sweden who join fellow playoff winners Switzerland and Croatia (including Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic) at next summer’s main event in Russia.
All of Sweden are Mikael Lustig right now.