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Tuesday November 14 2017
Italy exit was avoidable

Italy's failure to reach the 2018 World Cup was like watching a car crash unfold in slow-motion, powerless to stop it, writes Susy Campanale.

The worst thing about Italy missing the 2018 World Cup is how avoidable it all was. It felt like watching that meme with the little dog sitting inside a flaming building, sipping tea and saying: “This is fine.” It hasn’t been fine for a very long time, but we felt powerless to stop this slow-motion car crash as it unfolded in front of us.

We had such high hopes for this tournament in Russia. It was meant to be Gigi Buffon coming full circle, having made his debut in a 1997 play-off on Russian soil and ready to hang up his gloves at the age of 40 as the only man to ever take part in six World Cup finals. Seeing him in tears at the final whistle was a stab in the heart to all lovers of the sport.

Buffon was the man applauding to encourage others to stop jeering the Swedish national anthem, just as he had done with France. Buffon was the man who rushed up for the corner in stoppages, the last to give up. Buffon was the first to the TV cameras while his Coach ran off down the tunnel to hide from his responsibilities. Buffon is a true captain, a true legend, a true man. He did not deserve this.

Ventura not only didn’t have the guts to speak to the reporters after this humiliation, but when he finally did sit down in the confines of a contractually-obligated Press conference, he refused to resign or apologise to the Italian people for this sham of a two-year tenure. Don’t expect FIGC President Carlo Tavecchio to go without a fight either. They are both spectacularly deluded.

It’s interesting that over the last few days, Buffon has publicly stated the complete opposite of Ventura’s comments. When the Coach said they were always heading for the play-offs after being paired with Spain, the goalkeeper declared Italy “must not get accustomed to mediocrity.” When Ventura complained about the referee and the deflected goal in Sweden, Buffon said “the one thing we must not do is call ourselves unlucky.”

This rebellion was evident on the touchline during the second half of Italy’s 0-0 draw at San Siro. Daniele De Rossi was asked to warm up by Ventura’s staff, but reacted with frustration and declared (in slightly more colourful terms than I’m allowed to go into here) that he really ought to introduce a forward such as Lorenzo Insigne instead.

Insigne and Jorginho are the canaries in the coalmine. The key figures in top of the Serie A table Napoli are either dropped entirely or played out of position. The Brazilian-born midfielder was not even called up for 18 months, then eventually Ventura throws him in from the start in the biggest game of his tenure. No pressure. Insigne’s face when having to explain to his Italy teammates that he was being played in central midfield as a substitute for the last 15 minutes in Solna expressed everything: ‘Don’t ask me, I’m just following orders.’

Ventura’s decisions increasingly seemed to be made out of sheer spite and pig-headedness. Why else would he use 4-2-4 for most of the qualifying campaign and then scrap it all for 3-5-2 when everyone was crying out for a 4-3-3 formation? Why start Jorginho and Manolo Gabbiadini in the most desperate circumstances after utterly ignoring them for almost two years? Talk about setting them up to fail…

I don’t agree with the usual cliché about how this means Italian football is failing and there are too many foreigners in Serie A. The talent is there. The players were at Ventura’s disposal. He simply did not use them properly. Don’t tell me a squad with Buffon and Gianluigi Donnarumma, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, Marco Verratti and Jorginho, Alessandro Florenzi and Daniele De Rossi, Roberto Gagliardini and Lorenzo Pellegrini, Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, Andrea Belotti and Ciro Immobile was not worthy of a World Cup spot.

We had such high hopes for this tournament. By virtue of the law of 12s, Italy were due to appear in the Final. Since 1970, the Azzurri have appeared in a World Cup Final every 12 years, winning it every 24. With these players, it was entirely possible. It would’ve been a fitting conclusion to the career of 2006 winners Buffon, De Rossi and Barzagli, and a bright beginning for the likes of Insigne, Florenzi, Verratti, Bernardeschi and Belotti.

This was all so avoidable. 

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
Ventura didn't do a press conference and apologize to the Italian people. BUT was quick enough to get his money.
A total disgrace . A man on an EGO trip
on the 4th December, 2017 at 3:42pm
The pain of watching the world cup draw!!!
I wish Ventura gets pelted with tomatoes everywhere he goes, he doesn't deserve to manage another team in Italy.
Not to come out and speak to the media, he was on an ego trip like in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 " its all about me ". a style of football that no-one understands or believes in. He was always from the Spain game be absolutely clueless Tactically and Passionately and that was evident after the Sweden game at the San Siro.
on the 4th December, 2017 at 3:39pm
Italy will be back and the word will know it. Serie A is having another good season with real competition. In a few years, the program will be back where is rightfully belongs..
on the 29th November, 2017 at 3:51pm
@ Daniel - How many world cups does Holland have? And who was celebrating Holland's omission? you are delusional.
on the 29th November, 2017 at 2:50am
Ha! Just when Italians were having quite a bit of Schadenfreude about Holland's demise. Now they're in the same boat. Suck it up. Now you too know what oblivion is like. And long may it last!
on the 26th November, 2017 at 8:02pm
Hey Claudio, stop with the nonsense. No the coach won't score a goal, but how about put on a player that can try to create down the middle where we had no one and the Swedes being more than happy to put 1000 men in their box to keep pounding out ineffective cross after cross after cross. Give it a rest. He's an abject failure, he should shoulder most of the blame, and he has. Time to move on.
on the 18th November, 2017 at 6:07pm
Nina has her finger on the pulse. Buffon, Maldini and Baggio were always humble in defeat and gracious in victory. Buffon just might become the bigger legend because he won a World Cup and his storied career. What could this team do with these men in charge of various posts on the Federation.
on the 18th November, 2017 at 6:04pm
Everybody just calm down. Dont blame Ventura in all my years of playing and watching I never saw a coach score a goal.This is the new way soccer is played a less talented team like Sweeden will defend and hope they get a half a chance.Please Suzy and the rest of you stop talking about formations.While a game is in play the formation changes every second one minute your attacking with seven players then your defending with nine. Italy will be back, wont be surprised if they win Euro 2018
on the 18th November, 2017 at 12:08pm
As for who is in my opinion The Greatest footballing player/legend/icon EVER, Gianluigi 'Superman' Buffon. It's not just his immense talent that we've witnessed throughout his entire career, but also how humble and respectful he is. When some Italian fans were jeering the Swedish anthem, he tried to encourage otherwise by applauding it. He's demonstrated many other acts of incredible humility.

Let's just see if the likes of Neuer and De Gea are still around and still producing excellent performances and saves like Super Gigi.

In a way the fact that he wasn't in his box when the final whistle sounded kind of detracts a little from the sadness, and also we have to think that if Italy were going to compete in Russia, how truly likely is it that we'd be celebrating a 5th WC? The chances would have perhaps been greater that Gigi would have been ending his career with defeat. I know there was the 12 year thing (1982=Win, 1994=Loss,2006=Win,2018=Loss?). Now, I hope that Juventus and Gigi go all out hell for leather to win that flipping big-eared trophy, but that will then mean that Gigi won't retire (as he recently said that he will continue to play for another season so that he can compete for the Club World Cup if Juve win UCL). Let's see what happens.
on the 17th November, 2017 at 2:41pm
English trolls gloating in it? No doubt that they are, but they all need to remember that they and their national team will ALWAYS be inferior to that of La Nazionale. How many World Cups have England failed to qualify for? 1974, 1978 and 1994. Ha.
on the 17th November, 2017 at 2:23pm
All this talk about Seeding and Friendlies is a joke. Italy is Italy and should never have to think about coming in second in any group. their sole objective should be to win the groups. The day Ventura said second place finish to spain is the day he should have been fired. there used to be a day when Italy was feared and respected. They lost that and need to get their identity back. Go back to basics and let players develop like in the past. Over training these players, they are all like robots
on the 16th November, 2017 at 12:26pm
I'm humored by the English trolls gloating in all of this. LOL
on the 16th November, 2017 at 6:42am
2/2 @Alex OJ

When it's all done in 15 years from now Italy will still have four stars and Sweden will be the team that beat them in a playoff once, and that is something you should be epically proud of because you won't be known for anything else.
on the 16th November, 2017 at 6:40am
1/2 @ Alex OJ

Never in the history if Italian football did Italy bunker so weakly, without any attempt to try going forward...and no one cares or is complaining. We failed because we couldn't score, no doubt, but don't be a little baby because no one actually thinks Sweden were better or are worthy. You're there. Congrats...now go pray because you're going to need DIVINE intervention to do anything more important than knock out a historical heavy weight. When it's all said and done in 15 years
on the 16th November, 2017 at 6:39am
2/2 @Viktoria

And listen you Swede, you got through, but don't cry that no one thinks you're anything special, because you're not. Your team didn't defeat Italy. Italy did. Now bow down and show respect because you're heading for a 1st round embarrassment anyway...like we would have been if Ventura got through.

Drain the swamp!
on the 16th November, 2017 at 6:36am
1/2 @ Viktoria

"Sweden went through because YOU DID NOT TAKE YOUR CHANCES." That's what I said, are you not able to understand?

"If you play away and your up 1-0 in a knock out ANY TEAM would park their buss.
Jesus, learn tactics."

From the country who taught the world said tactics, and the world copies it when needed without STYLE. Except when Italy defend and do it well, the rest of you guys cry that it's unfair. No one in Italy is crying that it was unfair. They were just ugly, & bunker
on the 16th November, 2017 at 6:34am
MZ1 wow you are right! I didn't realise Italy were not seeded for qualifying. They were in pot 2. England were seeded because they take friendlies seriously.

No wonder Italy had a tough group, yes it is their own fault. It makes sense now.
on the 15th November, 2017 at 11:21pm
Marco what are you talking about? Germany were in the 1998 World Cup and have never failed to qualify, they got to the 1/4 Final in 1998.

1950 they were banned.
on the 15th November, 2017 at 11:01pm
To all the people criticising Sweden's style of play,

Hello? Italy invented defensive football. You've been killed with your own sword.

IF you can't score 1 goal in 2 games, you have no right to be in the World Cup.
on the 15th November, 2017 at 10:50pm
Italy have no divine right to be in the world cup. You're not good enough, it's that simple.

If you can't score a goal in 2 matches against Sweden you're not good enough.
on the 15th November, 2017 at 10:47pm
@Dry Gooch

Sweden went through because YOU DID NOT TAKE YOUR CHANCES.

If you play away and your up 1-0 in a knock out ANY TEAM would park their buss.

Jesus, learn tactics.
on the 15th November, 2017 at 7:13pm
Great article Susy,
The reason we are not going to the World Cup because we where drawn with Spain.Italia does not take friendlies and games against the so called small teams seriously. We ended up with Spain because of our ranking. We need to go out and play all our games as if they where a final.
on the 15th November, 2017 at 3:42pm
The main issue with this team was the coaching and the staff. Sweden deserved to win over the two legs without a doubt. Everyone is talking about Insigne... unfortunately Italy left their best chance at scoring a goal at home. He didnt even give Giovinco a chance to fail for himself. Italy had no creativity. Nobody to win a free kick and have a threat of scoring.. Leaving Balotelli at home in favour of Gabbiadini? Where was Italy ever going with resting their world cup hopes on that attack?
on the 15th November, 2017 at 2:06pm
Sweden won by bunkering and getting a lucky goal, but we didn't bury our chances and our coach tried his best to either ignore our best players, or when forced to introduce them play them out of position. That's the disgrace, but if there was finish by Belotti, Immobile, Darmian, Candreva on the golden opportunities then Ventura would have done his best to ensure another 1st round exit. This is probably better, even if painful because it cannot be ignored. Ventura if you are a man, you will quit
on the 15th November, 2017 at 9:14am
Ventura and Tavecchio did the job they were paid to do, humiliate Italy. Now they both must disappear into the shadows and never be spoken of again.
on the 15th November, 2017 at 9:09am
Why mafia still not take action yet?
on the 15th November, 2017 at 7:55am
ciao amici!
i totally agree with Susy this exit was avoidable!
didn't we beat Spain/Belgium/Sweden with almost the same squad - JORGINHO in 2016 under Conte??
if Buffon is not the world class keeper really who is?
we won 1982 wc when Zoff was 40 years old!!!
unfortunately it was the matter of Ventura against the whole wide world of football!! he wanted to show who was in charge regardless of conciquences!!
it will be defenetley not the same without ITALIA!
we suffer but will recover!
on the 15th November, 2017 at 6:29am
Susy, I am sorry but sincerely disagree with you. This team would have gone no where if they qualified for the world cup. You mean to tell me we were going to beat Germany, spain or brazil with this team? sorry was and is not going to happen. Not with ventura at the helm either. I saw this coming and sorry but this has to happen to cause real change in Italian soccer. Ventura made too many mistakes choosing players and never did instill the youngsters that he promised.
on the 15th November, 2017 at 12:53am
@Italian in Canada


"Sweden should be embarrassed."I'm embarrassed to be half-Swedish today"

Dude, how delusional are you. Why the HELL should the team that went trough be embarassed. What kind of weird world do you live in.

I'm beyond embarassed for your statement, clearly you know nothing about fotboll and should stick to moose hunting or maple syrup brewing or whatever you do over there because fotboll is NOT YOUR THING.

Calling out Sweden for going through...Tssss sad.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 10:44pm
Susy, sorry but you're wrong. This team wouldn't amount to much in the World Cup. Yes the tactic was blatantly foolish, hey let's hit the heads of the tall Swedish centre-backs with crosses...But even a good coach would need some world-class in offense to go through to the later stages of the world cup. The whole football programme needs to be overhauled from values to staff to action. Only in Italy is a 26 year old regarded as a talent. Our young players needs more playing time sooner.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 9:43pm

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