Tuesday March 6 2018
‘Italy no-show a beautiful blow’

FIFA chief Gianni Infantino says Italy’s World Cup no-show will prove “a beautiful blow” but backs Russia to host “the most beautiful” tournament in history.

Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years after their playoff defeat to Sweden, but Infantino is confident the Azzurri will bounce back, even if they will be missing an “absolutely spectacular” tournament.

“It’ll be an absolutely spectacular World Cup, the most beautiful in history,” he told Sport Mediaset.

“I’ve been to Russia a lot lately and realised the Russian people want to show that theirs is a country that knows how to welcome fans from all over the world.

“One and a half million people will arrive: they’ll be able to do so without a visa, there will be free transport in the host cities and free access to museums thanks to the match tickets.

“The stadiums are beautiful and for the whole country, it’ll be a matter of national pride, showing that they can organise a beautiful competition.

“It’ll be a beautiful and exciting party and we want people to come to Russia. A World Cup without Italy? The fact that Italy didn’t qualify for the World Cup was a beautiful blow for all of Italian football.

“They must work hard and find the strengths and resources needed to start over. In Italy, there’s passion, talent, preparation and structure, so everyone must start by putting aside their own interests and focus on those of Italian football in order to re-establish its tradition.

“The Azzurri shirt moves not only Italians but also football in general. That jersey deserves to remain one of the best.

“Now they have competent people working and if they need FIFA, we’re here to help. It’s important for the world of football that Italy are strong.”

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