“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that,” goes the famous Martin Luther King Junior quote. Of course, he was referring to matters much more serious than football, but there are still lessons to be learned from his wisdom in all walks of life.
The Italian national team experienced one of its darkest days on Monday evening at San Siro, failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years after a 1-0 defeat to Sweden over two legs. As if that wasn’t quite enough for the Azzurri fans to take, stalwarts Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Barzagli and Gianluigi Buffon all retired from international football, the captain in floods of tears.
That those legendary players weren’t given the chance to play in one last World Cup was a terrible shame, but what’s done is now done, and Italy must move forward in order to pull themselves out of the abyss that they have found themselves in.
As a first step on this journey back to prominence, removing Giampiero Ventura as CT is an absolute must. A million reasons why the former Torino man has been an abject failure in charge of the national team have already been covered in detail, and the bottom line is that his tenure is unsustainable.
Next must come the introduction of players that should have been in the starting line-up long ago. Lorenzo Insigne – inexplicably left on the bench at San Siro – now at 26 years old should be one of the very first names on the team-sheet, and so too must his Napoli compadre Jorginho. A look at the first half of that return leg showed what a difference the latter should have been making to the Azzurri, but instead he has been largely left at home along with the rest of us, pondering what could have been.
The likes of Stephan El Shaarawy and Federico Bernardeschi provide plenty of attacking options, and with the retirement of Buffon, Chiellini and Barzagli, Italy will now be forced to look at some of their many young alternatives in defence.
Mattia Caldara, Alessio Romagnoli and Daniele Rugani are just a few of those youngsters who are ready to make the leap to the first team, and the FIGC must now ensure that the right Coach is appointed to lead them. This should not be someone akin to Ventura, who promised to deploy the young players only to spectacularly ignore what he previously said.
Italy need a leader who is ready to revolutionise the squad, so that we will one day look back and realise that Monday night’s apocalypse had to happen in order for the side to start again and finally look to the future.
It has been this inability to let go of the past that has been hampering Italy in recent times, but there is no need and no excuse for half-hearted attempts to turn things around. The wounds are still very raw, but the Azzurri must hope that the light will start emerging from the darkness soon.
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