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...
On the bright side Germany failed to make 1998 WC but look at them since... Spain's failures brought their generation of success. At least we start again with a great history in 4 world cups. As long as Tavecchio and Ventura are out its a start of something new, an ex player should run the federation like Maldini / Albertini, and we need a manager who is tactically gifted, willing to play youth (18 plus not 25 plus) and willing to stay for at least 8 years (as long as their is a project).
on the 14th November, 2017 at 1:07pm
Italy has zero identity... Throw out everyone at the FIGC, implement Sarrismo throughout the whole national team set up, and start building something beautiful and successful again. SARRI FOOTBALL FOR THE NATIONAL TEAM
on the 14th November, 2017 at 1:03pm
We'll be back... we Won 2 World Cups and finished runners up once in the last 9 (10 including 2018). We needed this, we have been plodding since 2010 favouring old players and no youth, the FIGC has been wrong with management choices starting from Lippi's second stint, then prandelli who seemed great but bottled his project, Conte was selfish - he picked a weak team (not one for the future) did well and then left. Ventura wasn't even worthy of a lesser national side let alone Italy.....
on the 14th November, 2017 at 1:02pm
1974 - YEAR 4

1978 - YEAR 8

1982 - YEAR 12 - WINNERS

1986 - YEAR 4

1990 - YEAR 8

1994 - YEAR 12 - FINAL

1998 - YEAR 4

2002 - YEAR 8

2006 - YEAR 12 - WINNER (2ND WIN {AS IN 1938} )


2010 - YEAR 4

2014 - YEAR 8

on the 14th November, 2017 at 12:51pm

1934 - WIN


1954 - YEAR 8 IN CYCLE


1962 - YEAR 4

1966 - YEAR 8

1970 - YEAR 12 - FINAL
on the 14th November, 2017 at 12:44pm
Yes this would have been avoided if we had a Conte or Ancelotti and who knows maybe we could have topped the group ahead of Spain with the right game plan and fit players but this is the harsh reality now and what is needed is a purge of all the 'rubbish' @ FIGC starting from the racist criminal Tavecchio all the way down to the demented Ventura.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 12:44pm
Going forward these are the pool of players between now and next euros: Donnarumma, Perin, Meret, Romagnoli, Rugani, Caldara, Bonucci, hope chiellini changes his mind still feel he has a part to play ,Calabria, Emerson, Spinnazola, Masina, Jorginho, Chiesa, Cristante, Barella, Diawara, Florenzi, Locatelli, Bonaventura, Baselli, Benassi,Caligiuri, Murgia, Pellegrini, Marchisio, Verratti, Cutrone, Zaza, Balotelli, Insigne, Immobile, Verdi, Di Francesco, Orsolini, Verde, Belotti.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 12:36pm
It is just absurd why ventura went into a second leg tie needing his team to score goals and playing a defensive formation why insigne despite being the most effective Italian player in the league left on the bench why parolo was preferred over de rossi or gagliardini why he was called up over benassi pellegrini soriano baselli sturaro on a consistent basis why eder is in this team at all considering his lack of goals why jorginho was introduced in such a massive game.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 12:24pm
Immobile, Belotti and Bernardeschi are not world cup quality players! We desperately need some young strikers to come through at the moment Balotelli is our only quality out and out striker...
on the 14th November, 2017 at 12:19pm
Absolutely devastated, having cried this much in a long time. I am not going to go on about what a joke Ventura has been throughout we all know this. Looking forward we need reform throughout our football. We need Ancelotti in charge and must do what ever it takes to get him, he is a winner and has vast experience. We have friendlies then the Nations league starts next year (not a fan but there we are). We have lots of games before qualifying for Euros start to build a team going forward.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 12:15pm
Since that triumph, the Azzurri have won one World Cup finals game.
None of this is a coincidence.
If the Azzurri and Italian football is going to return to the top, then the whole footballing system needs to be uprooted. And that starts with kicking out dinosaurs like Tavecchio and Ventura, Galliani, Lotito. All corrupt businessmen who have finally destroyed calcio. And Italy being the greatest footballing country on earth again.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 12:02pm
Italian football needs to be completely revolutionised. Fossils like Tavecchio and Galliani need to be driven out of the game and the rotten political system that protects them overthrown.
There is so much that needs to be fixed. Off the pitch we see half-empty stadiums and racism from fans go unpunished, while clubs are so ignorant and backwards when it comes to PR and marketing that they couldn't sell a life jacket on the Titanic
on the 14th November, 2017 at 11:59am
Twenty years later and the squad’s frontline contains an Inter reserve, Eder, and a struggling Southampton striker, Manolo Gabbiadini. Such is the dearth of quality available that fans were forced to pin their hopes on Ciro Immobile, who has proven to be an almighty flop whenever he has played for a big team.
Over the past 12 months, Leonardo Pavoletti, Gianluca Lapadula, Roberto Inglese and Nicola Sansone have received call-ups.
A Serie A club hasn’t won the Champions League since 2010 - and even that was an Inter team containing 11 foreigners - or contested a UEFA Cup/Europa League final since 1999. There hasn’t been an Italian Ballon d’Or winner since 2006, the same year Italy won the World Cup.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 11:58am
Italian football fans like to mock the Premier League and the way the influx of expensive foreigners has destroyed the England national team. But the Azzurri’s situation right now is bleaker than that of the Three Lions, who at least safely qualified for Russia and even experienced great success at youth level by winning the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups this year.When Italy qualified for the 1998 World Cup, the forwards they took to France were Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Christian Vieri, Filippo Inzaghi and Enrico Chiesa. The following top-class attackers didn't make the trip: Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Mancini, Francesco Totti, Giuseppe Signori, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Vincenzo Montella, Pierluigi Casiraghi and Paolo Di Canio. The latter never even won a cap for his country.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 11:57am
On the pitch, the football is sinking as a result. The lack of Italian players coming through the ranks is of huge concern.
Take a look at Italy's best five clubs right now. The Napoli team that lost 2-1 at Manchester City in the Champions League had just one Italian starting. The following night, Roma began their 3-3 draw at Chelsea without a single Italian.
Even Juventus - traditionally the Serie A club that boasts an Italian core - finished their game against Sporting that week with only three Italians: Gianluigi Buffon (age 39), Andrea Barzagli (36) and Giorgio Chiellini (33). The Inter and Lazio teams who are flying high in Serie A this season have on average only two to three Italians starting each weekend.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 11:55am
You are such a hypocrite, Susy.

Remember you wrote this?
"On the other hand, do not call for Antonio Conte’s swift return and complain that Jorginho isn’t used, because Ventura is hardly the first Azzurri boss to ignore the Napoli midfielder. Suddenly people forget the problems of the Conte era – the negative defend and counter tactics, refusal to trust young players, focus on grit over quality."

That was after Italy was humiliated by Spain. Many asked to sack Ventura. But you defended him.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 11:49am
This whole disaster started with the early exit in 2014 and some of the players started to call out Balotelli for not being man enough to be an Azzurri.Then the hiring of the strongman Tavecchio and Conte being available. Conte chose a talentless team and with his psychological skills forced them to play way above their heads. Ventura had no such skills. Talent was left at home or misused. Players dispersed all over the continent did not help either. The final fact Seria A is still subpar
on the 14th November, 2017 at 11:47am
Ridiculous article. You really think that this Italy team would reach the world cup final? Which team were you watching? This is the worst Italy team for 25 years. There is not ONE player in this team that holds a candle to the likes of Del Piero, Totti, Roberto Baggio, Albertini, Nesta etc.

Sure, Italy should beat Sweden everyday of the week but this was the players fault as much as Venturas. Italy are not better than Sweden right now. FACT.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 11:27am
Can some please explain to me the need for 2 90 minute crossing exercises that led to no goals!!!!!!!!! Why al the crosses ???? Shame on Ventura
on the 14th November, 2017 at 11:26am
Good article totally agree with everything.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 11:12am

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