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Tuesday November 14 2017
Italy's problems run deep

Giampiero Ventura was out of his depth, but the last few World Cups show the Azzurri lack old-fashioned talent, writes Emmet Gates.

“Everyone home!” ran the front page of Tuttosport.  A World Cup without the Azzurri, not many can come to terms with it. In fact, most had never even witnessed an Italy-less tournament. It’s been 59 years since Northern Ireland blocked their entry to a World Cup.  Amidst all the soul-searching and finger-pointing that will inevitably follow in the wake of what has been described by La Gazzetta as ‘the apocalypse’, the problems start and end at home.

The world’s collective heart broke at the sight of Gigi Buffon in tears minutes after the final whistle, his chance of appearing at a record sixth World Cup shattered. But he aside, nobody currently playing for Italy deserved to be on the biggest stage in Russia, and Giampiero Ventura certainly didn’t deserve to be in charge of a side that had qualified for the tournament.

There was little confidence in Italy’s ability to ever turn the 1-0 deficit around. Ventura, while clearly a decent Coach, was completely out of his depth and in recent months any remaining confidence in his ability to effectively manage the national team evaporated. The end result isn’t all that surprising.

While Ventura can be blamed (and quite rightly) for failing to call upon Jorginho – one of the best midfielders in Serie A over the last several seasons – until only last night, and for his complete failure to make the most of the considerable talents of Lorenzo Insigne, the cumbersome CT has hardly been helped by a dearth of genuine talent.

Now, that statement might be surprising to some, given that there’s been a reinvigorated sense of hope in the future of the Italian national side. Players like Gigio Donnarumma, Daniele Rugani, Roberto Gagliardini, Marco Verratti and Andrea Belotti all possess the ability to gain multiple caps over the coming years, but there’s a cause for concern at the real depth of youth emerging in the Italian game.

Recently, Giorgio Chiellini lamented that ‘Guardiolismo’ – Pep Guardiola’s footballing ideology - has eroded the very fabric of what has throughout history made Italian defenders the best in the world: the capacity to man-mark. Chiellini remarked: “Guardiolismo has ruined many Italian defenders a bit. Now defenders know how to set the tone of play and they can spread the ball, but they don't know how to mark. Unfortunately, that's the way it is.”

Chiellini is arguably the last of his kind. That rugged, no-nonsense Italian stalwart in the mould of Claudio Gentile, Beppe Bergomi and Pietro Vierchowod. Yet, Chiellini won’t go down as one of the all-time legendary defenders, which speaks to the general downturn in Italy’s ability to produce world-class centre backs in the last two decades. Where have all the Maldini’s, Scirea’s, Nesta’s, Baresi’s and Cannavaro’s gone?

The production line has also ceased at the top end of the pitch. Long gone are the days when Italy would have a creative genius in the No. 10 shirt, strolling around the turf seeking to bamboozle defenders with a mix of trickery and fine artistry. Never more was that obvious than at the San Siro. As Sweden sat deep, holding on to their one-goal lead from the first leg, Italy created precious little. Where have all the Baggio’s, the Del Piero’s, the Totti’s, the Mancini’s and the Rivera’s gone?

It made for depressing reading to see Ventura start such a crucial match with the strike partnership of Ciro Immobile and Manolo Gabbiadini. Respectable players they are, but both are far from world-class material.

Serie A history is full of Italian strikers who, brilliant for their clubs, simply couldn’t make the switch to the national team: Beppe Signori, Gianluca Vialli, Vincenzo Montella, Enrico Chiesa and Antonio Di Natale all spring to mind. Yet what other choices did the beleaguered Coach have? Belotti was rushed back for the first leg and clearly wasn’t fit enough to start a second game inside three days. And then there was Eder.

Where have all the Paolo Rossi’s, the Vieri’s, the Inzaghi’s, the Riva’s gone?

It’s debatable whether Italy will be really missed at this summer’s tournament; since Fabio Cannavaro lifted the trophy high into the Berlin sky in July 2006, they’ve only won one game in the two subsequent tournaments. After their humiliating group stage exit in 2010, talk of reform was high. Roberto Baggio and Arrigo Sacchi were brought on board by the FIGC in an attempt to get back to basics.

Nothing changed.

With the retirement of Buffon, Chiellini and Barzagli, the BBC is no more, dismantled.  The old warrior Daniele De Rossi has also called time. The passing of the old guard has arrived. The winds of change are upon us.

This is year zero for the Azzurri. Let’s hope there are genuine changes and not a retaining of the status quo. 

Have your say...
Has anyone seen the video in Italian where De Rossi argued on the bench with a technical assistant not to be substituted and have Insigne go on instead? Even De Rossi knew more than the manager!

By the way, we should note that Croatia changed managers right before their last game. And they have tickets to Russia!

They should and could have dropped Ventura right after Spain's game.

What could have been.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 9:12pm
We have great managers yet went out because we could only get a joke in charge.The reality is we will probably get a second tier manager such as Mancini and suffer some more.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 9:05pm
The idea we didn't have the players to go through is a joke.A combination of a terrible coach and a bad draw to get Spain sealed our fate.

Conte would have got us through.So would Allegri and Ancellotti.It's a fine line between success and failure.Had Damian not hit the post but scored then we would not be here talking about a much needed revolution.

We are out and now we have to wait until next September to play a meaningful game and 5 years to play in the next world cup if we qualify.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 9:03pm
I agree with Di Rocco....also, we're lucky not have played Croatia. We would of gotten our ... handed to us...... Last, Tevechio owns this. He was the one that hired the goat herder....That's it....All done
on the 14th November, 2017 at 8:45pm
Changes are certainly needed in Italian football, but Italy has good enough players to cause most times problems if they are selected properly, played in the proper positions, and coached in a system that suits the team. Ventura was trying to jam the wrong players in a system that is outdated and docile. There were no real exciting chances over those two legs. The team looked absolutely toothless and this is primarily due to bad selection and coaching.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:40pm
And I wouldn't say this about every nation but I know that Football is like a religion in Italy. Any Italian will know this. We should be turning out stars every 4 years minimally this is why the the youth system is broken because it takes too long to find, trust and develop the gems. You can't do that if your football institutions do not prioritize this. Your past wins mean nothing, you must perform every time you take the field or be replaced by those with more hunger and ability.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:39pm
It's true that Italy doesn't have the word class players of years gone past, yet having very good players is enough to go far under the proper coach. Jorginho and Verratti with a workhorse CM should have been the spine of Italy in a 4-3-3 for this entire campaign. Say what you want about Balotelli, but if he was flanked by Insigne and someone like Berrardi, SES, or even Candreva on the other wing, Italy would probably be in the WC right now, and if not, they would have at least went out swinging
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:36pm
There was plenty of time and plenty of players that Ventura could have integrated as he promised he would. He just pulled a Lippi and put his trust in older past their prime players (Buffon,Barzagli, Chiellini, De Rossi, Candreva, Eder, etc) and a bunch of hardworking less talented players..i call them scrubs (Parolo, Darmian, Immobile etc)

You take those player selections and combine it with stupid formations and zero identity and you get this
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:30pm
Whatever we say the situation is a mess and it didn't need to be. The fact we are out is surreal and a joke, yes it was coming all things considered (FIGC / Manager) but even so we could have avoided this embarrassment. Then again papering over cracks as we have done since 2010 is not good enough. If we had beaten Sweden then sacked Ventura (doubtful) and appointed Ancelotti as WC interim manager - Tavecchio and the shambles system we have in place would have remained.. so sadly its for the best
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:29pm
the money he has been paid since he took over. He has the audacity to say he has not yet resigned as if carrying on is an option. He should never be employed again be it in football or in the media as this is beyond disgraceful. Along with that have retired, Candreva, Parolo and Darmian at left back are things that should never happen again. I don't really see the so called talent some ppl r talking. Few decent players yes but quite a lot are grossly overrated for doing sweet FA
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:22pm
This is a mandate the states the we lost and should of lost because we're not that good....We have great coaches that don't bother coaching this team....players that are not picked and are overwhelmingly talented.....an unethical organization that needs to be replaced with competent persons who can make and attract the right talent in players and in the organization.....If can't this right, don't bother thinking with the next euro's. We won't qualify for them either........
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:13pm
To all the decent Italians out there commiserations on what happened as for the minority esp a couple on here that call England and France a nation of black n white, I hope the pain in your hearts is very intense and lasts longer than the 4 years of humiliation you'll surely suffer. Every time you watch Brazil n France win games at d wc I hope the pain you suffer from d misplaced superiority u seem to possess is enormous. As for Ventura I am bemused he has not offered to pay back all
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:13pm
Serie A needs overhaul. Every team to field no more than 4 non italians. It is so simple. Respect the youth of Italy we dont need to make foreigners italian we just need to chamge the mentality of buy cheap from africa/south America and eastern Europe.
If Ventura still has a job by the end of the day tomorrow i will never watch italy play again. This is a mafia- why did they renew his contract when it was so clear how this was going to end? So that he could be paid off that is why he wont go!
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:12pm
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 7:10pm
“Yet what other choices did the beleaguered coach have?” Balotelli and Giovinco for a start! Maybe not Baggio and Del piero but far superior players than Immobile and Gabbiadini, or Eder and Belotti. It was criminal to have never called them. And don’t give me shizzle about Balotelli being a trouble maker, or Giovinco playing in a poor league! Simply put, they are better.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 7:08pm
this is probably the best young generation of Italian players for the last 10 years if there is a fault it was with the previous generation of players. In any case for me the issue is the appointment of coaches by the FIGC post 2006 conti has been the stand out choice it is just annoys me that they couldn't attract top coaches like ancelotti or spaletti either tempting poor old lippi out of retirement or appointing coaches with no top level experience. Th figc needs drastic change.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 6:57pm
Agree with Anonymous11

Gagliardini is overrated, Pellegrini is better. Ventura ignored players - we never saw Insigne in his position combined with El Shaarawry or Berardi, we never saw Veratti with Jorginho alongside an energetic Pellegrini. Totti at Euro 2000 was 23 - same age Berardi (with better stats despite his injuries) would be at the WC 18, Caldara, Romagnoli, Rugani are all 22-23 - Donnarumma is 18. Balotelli is a hot head however at his best which he is at Nice he's as good as CF.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 6:35pm
The youth system in Italy is broken. 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 veterans who do not perform should be replaced immediately by up and coming youth. Not sticking for 12 years with the same players expecting something different. It breeds complacency and loyalty in players that is miss-found because real consequences are never enacted.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 6:11pm
Well, it just goes to show the extent to which these clowns are willing to go. You have humiliated yourself and an entire country. You will go down in history as a failure. Yet, you choose to hold on and then also demand a payout! No class, no clue, no dignity, so shame. So sad.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 6:09pm
Well said. Fantastic write up. Too many foreigners in the league, all replacing the young Italian talent. We have less than 100 academies in Italian football. We should of done something about it after 2010 World Cup. Germany did this in 2000. 17 years later and have a wealth of talent coming through. Likewise for Spain. In 2006 they opened 300 academies and look now. If we follow this it will take 10 years before we win again. I hope and pray Italia will be great again.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 5:28pm
Ventura didn't have a clue. The players should have accepted his resignation after the 1st leg when there was a rift in the changing rooms - allegedly. JOrginho should've been called for the last two games of the group qualifiers in a 4 3 3 alongside Insigne and Belotti with Balotelli this would have been really interesting. Then we may have been in a better state of mind against Sweden. But Ventura was poor decision making, Sweden parked the bus and the really strong IKEA storage cabinets.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 5:26pm
Have to agree with a lot of this article. Whilst under a better coach I am sure Italy would have the players to qualify. Overall, there has been a drop in talent coming through. Especially when you consider that Zola/Del Piero/Baggio/Mancini/Totti were all available in the same era. Conte's Azzurri overachieved and masked the deficiencies. Italy needs to follow Germany's model and revamp from youth level.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 5:16pm
con't. We don't see that anymore. And that doesn't just apply to Italy. All over the world you see kids with Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar jerseys but you never see kids with defenders on their back or midfielders, it's always strikers. Italians must get back to developing great players, players who are creative, who can defend, and who strike the fear of god in their opponents. The World is catching up and it's up to Italy to respond.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 5:12pm
cont't. Defenders and creative players are not valued anymore. The game has become about speed and scoring, that's what sponsors look for, those are the players that make the most money. So kids the grow up wanting to be soccer players obviously want to be strikers because strikers get paid. When is the last time you saw a child wearing the jersey of an Italian defender or midfielder? I remember growing up, everyone had a Maldini shirt or Nesta or Baresi or Pirlo or Baggio or Totti....
on the 14th November, 2017 at 5:09pm
This article is spot on. Italy doesn't produce World Class players anymore. Do we have good players, yes. Do we have very good players, yes. But good and very good players do not win major tournaments and obviously do not qualify for major tournaments. We lack players that are truly comfortable on the ball, that have creativity, that strike fear onto opponents. World football is changing and the problem is Italians are falling into the economic trap.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 5:03pm
Nothing will change. Tifosi better get used to it.
on the 14th November, 2017 at 4:57pm
It is a shame to see a country like Italy,which has best coaches in the world,hires someone like Ventura to lead its national team.
There is a fundemetal problem at FIGC.Ventura should not be the only one to get kicked out!!!!
on the 14th November, 2017 at 4:57pm

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