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. 

Have your say...
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 10:43pm
The idea that even if we qualified we would not have won is a joke.Italy usually win the world cup when they are not expected to.Also you have to consider generally how weak most of the 'top' national teams are.We all remember the great France,German,Brazil,Argentina,sides of the past.No more are they great.Germany can be very good but overall national sides were better 15/20 years ago.

There are simply not the amount of world class players there used to be.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 9:54pm
Luciano S...Fear not. There are many who understand and sympathise. As 2nd generation, it is often an isolating experience given schoolfriends/colleagues who would mercilessly rib. Republic of Ireland in 94 for example. As sad as last night was, our enthusiasm at least is not diminished and let us hope in some form of Risorgimento. Like with cars, the Germans are the most consistent, but when Alfa can be bothered they do have it in them to show them how it's done. Forza Azzurri...
on the 14th November, 2017 at 9:22pm
No need for shame, Luciano. I feel exactly the same, my friend. My first real taste of the WC finals was Spain 82. Oh, for that team now...
on the 14th November, 2017 at 8:50pm
This is devastating I have never witnessed this in my 54 years , but the " perfect storm " happened yes Ventura is useless but to draw Spain from Pot 1 and then " biscotti " Sweden was hard to take .
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:51pm
you have to feel for the likes of buffon barzagli and de rossi world cup winners who have been in a Italian side spiralling downwards because of the FIGC finishing their international careers in this fashion. Hopefully this will lead to massive restructuring at the FIGC this time they shouldn't get away with blaming foreigners for their incompetence.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:49pm
Who ever was responsible for hiring Ventura in the first place should be fired. He is a failure of a coach who hasn't won anything. He took this team who were runner's-up at the Euros only 18 months age and reduced them to a team that could not even beat the likes of Macedonia. He should have been fired after the draw with macedondia.
This American would like to thank Gigi, Cheilini, Barzaglia, Rossi who have brought great joy to me and my familyover the past two decades. Grazia!!
on the 14th November, 2017 at 6:57pm
Also, we deserved to lose even before the match started. The entire talk since the qualifiers started was about how we will finish in second because spain is in our group. are u kidding me???? that defeatist attitude makes me not want to watch this team anymore. you have won 4 world cups and talking like you are some low level side.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 6:33pm
There was an article on here saying that Italy should have challenged for the WC. Are you kidding me???? I never remember a group of forwards that italy had that was this poor. Being good for your club and country are two completely different things.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 6:31pm
Yes we can blame ventura because he was clueless and with a better manager we could have done a BIT better. Lets not kid ourselves though, outisde of the BBC this is the worst collection of midfielders and forwards that italy has had in the last 40 years. Veratti had a change in the first game to show what all the hype is about but he was absolutely awful, tripping over himself. Since 2008 we have had one good two year run from 2010-2012 when prandelli took them to the euro finals.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 6:29pm
The biggest problem in Italian football has been a lack of quality in central midfield. This is a critical position because they are involved in defensive coverage and they are critical to linking the attack with the forwards. Italy do not produce these box to box midfielders that have the skill to overtake the opponent 1 v 1 when needed and who have the vision to make the pass to set up the strikers in a scoring position. Verratti is the exception right now, but he lacks intelligence.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 5:58pm
Too much young talent in Italy that is not promoted. It should take Italy only 1, 4 year WC cycle to integrate new blood and not stick with veterans for years on end who perform at a MEDIOCRE level. At any major tournament if the player does not perform they should be replaced immediately by up and coming youth. That is how true champion teams are found and developed. Not sticking for 12 years with the same players expecting something different, that is the definition of insanity.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 5:55pm
Shocked to the core. I've not known a WC w/o Italy and I'm 49 so I now know how my english cousins felt multiple times b4. For me Conte needed to see us thro the WC qual. and he didn't the lure of Chelsea saw to that. I initially had high hopes for Ventura, he liked to play youth and attacking football but the first sign of it not working he choked. 4 2 4 should have then turned to 4 3 3 he was inept and even Conte refused to change system 3 5 2 no plan B.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 5:17pm
That serves buffon right he should've retired after euro2016 and make way for upcoming young keepers but instead he decided to continue,,next will be another shameful retirement from juventus
on the 14th November, 2017 at 4:19pm
Bottom line - we need to change to get back to the top, our whole system needs a revamping from youth level upwards, we have players with potential (if selected) and top managers, but it all starts with the FIGC - Tavecchio doesn't have a clue about football and lacks the charisma to run the Federation. If we qualified any of the systems Ventura used during qualifying - would have led us to crashing out in Russia anyway. Very disappointing - but at least we can start with a real plan now.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 4:09pm
Italy team for future for me donnarumma perin scuffet conti zappacosta spinazzola caldara romagnoli rugani jorginho verratti pellegrini belassi bonnaventura berradi bernardeschi insigne el shaarawy florenzi immobile belotti pellegri with izzo calabria locatelli cutrone mandragora gagliardini benassi chiesa sansone zaza orsolini and gabbiadini rotated into the team at various points.

Maybe some like bonucci marchisio candreva called upon if experience is needed.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 4:05pm
@Snuffer you're right I forgot Germany (had an old squad) and went out to Croatia (not remotely the same)... mixed them up with France not qualifying in 1994 and winning 1998 but that is not really similar as it was their first WC win and they had no WC history at the time. And yeah I agree, 3 tournament qualification failures in that period is not acceptable and it shows that we inconsistent... we get to finals / semis or we go out with a shock / don't qualify
on the 14th November, 2017 at 3:49pm
This has been in the making since the disgraceful WC 2010 when Lippi foolishly refused to bed in new blood & stick with a very old guard. Since then young players have been thrown into the Azzurri setup at random by Prandelli, Conte & Ventura & its been disastrous for them. A big problem in Serie A is poor trust in young Italians in top flight teams, & then how they are used adhoc & randomly in the senior Azzurri team around the Veterans. If we could just TRUST & PLAY YOUTH like other nations!
on the 14th November, 2017 at 3:46pm
I said before the first and second leg that the squad selection was wrong, and the tactics he's used so far were wrong. The bright side is that the squad for the 2020 Euro's could be very exciting to watch. We just need a coach who'll make the right selections, and who can usher in this new crop of players.

FIGC corrupt give it a rest. You're worse then a parrot.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 3:37pm
I feel ashamed to say this, but yesterday was one of the saddest moments in my life.Just as 2006 was up there with one of the best,I feel so low today.No world cup excitement,no glorious victories,no battles against the best and ultimately no trophy.We do so well when the world cup is staged in Europe (no European team will win in 2022)but we'll never know if 2018 could have been our year(again).Tragic. Vesti la giubba everyone - the show must go on, but regrettably, without the beloved Azzurri.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 3:13pm
This is a reactive mentality typical unfortunately of our Italian ways. Despite foresight and clear cracks in our foundations we wait until the apocalypse before somebody says "Things need to change"

This all started with project Baggio in 2010 when he realised how urgently we needed an overhaul and focus on youth post our World Cup humiliation. FIGC ignored his strategy and he leaves. By now 7 years later we would be reaping the rewards from his youth investment plan.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 3:10pm
Sweden was in the same group as France and Holland and they beat France. They are no pushobvers. What is this sense of entitlement that Italians have about their national team? Italy did not manage to beat Spain in any of the outings and frankly the 3-0 defeat was too flattering for the Italians. They just cant bring themselves into admitting that they have a rubbish team and equally rubbish football federation run by a dinasour. Italy - take a good look at yourself in the mirror and stop the execuses
on the 14th November, 2017 at 2:57pm
Where was Buonaventura? No system and reliance on yesteryear men, weren't the youngsters supposed to be coming through. I can't believe there isn't a left footed full back/wing back of italian heritage to play in that position.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 2:43pm
Adding to my list of people who can run a successful project are;
Paolo Maldini
Andrea Pirlo
Del Piero
As these men & others I have listed are among the best to look after an ambitious plan that can carry on a promising project. Please share your opinion on other individuals whom you think capable of doing Italian Football any good.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 2:08pm
Italian football can be sorted with a few strokes.Very simple, Ventura and most of the FICG to resign.Let proper footballing people along with Malago` to be involved at the FIGC.Ancellotti as coach.Clubs to stop purchasing mediocre foreign players and use our own players and we will return sooner than all of you think.The problem is not hard to resolve as we do have decent talent.Yes, we do not have the Del Piero's, Baggio etc but we do have good players that need to be played. SIMPLE AS THAT.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 2:05pm
Italy has football history, it's a power house so surely there will be a solution to come over this ugly hangover and start again. What I would like to see for Albertini, R. Baggio, Buffon, Totti and Ancelloti take part and be strongly involved in creating a project to shape up Italian Football & produce a very strong National Team. Italy needs to discover itself again in a very positive way, as it is capable of.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 1:54pm
The Sweden team bus was a formidable obstacle in front of goal. Sweden should be embarrassed. I'm embarrassed to be half-Swedish today. And Ventura, having seen Sweden's parking ability in the first leg, knowing Sweden would use their bus (and the city bus next to theirs) in the second leg, got his tactics all wrong. He's clueless, and he has to go.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 1:44pm

Germany qualified for the 1998 WC and reached the quarter-finals. The Germans have not failed to qualify for a tournament since 1968. Italy have now failed to qualify for THREE in the last 30 years - EURO 84, EURO 92 and WC 18.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 1:30pm
Yes avoidable, the disaster started when incompetent individuals took over the FIGC & in charge of Azzurri only exception Conte. It would of been different if Albertini got elected, as he had plans to go forward. Italian football got to this point coz people with sick ego are running it! Everyone to share the blame including Serie A coaches who favored utterly useless foreign players over young talented Italians.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 1:19pm
With Players now and coming up like Moise Kean 17, Pellegri 17, Donnarumma 18, Locatelli 20, Chiesa 20, Calabria 20, Diawarra 20 (when granted citizenship), Orsolini 20, Pellegrini 21, Romagnoli 22, Rugani 23, Caldara 23, Berardi 23, Emerson 23, Bernedeschi, 23 Veratti, 25 Jorginho, 25 El Shaarawry 25, Insigne 26 - then there is Mandragora 20 and Di Marco 20 as well as Belotti 23 (if he can get back to last season's form) we have talent we just need the right manager and individuals in the FIGC
on the 14th November, 2017 at 1:19pm

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