Thursday June 14 2018
My Azzurri anguish

The World Cup begins today, but Italy aren't invited to the party and Giancarlo Rinaldi is only just starting to realise how much Azzurri fans will miss out on.

When I moved house last year, I had only a handful of priorities. A nice area, a bit more room for the family and getting my satellite system in place so I could watch Italy win their play-off game with Sweden and have friends round for the World Cup. How fate - and my dish-fitter - would ultimately laugh at those plans.

So now, like millions of other tifosi around the planet, I face something I have never had to suffer before - the biggest competition of all being staged without my beloved Azzurri to cheer on. Only those in their late 60s at least will recall a similarly empty summer. It’s like football is holding its house party and all you can do is press your nose up against the window.

Among Scottish friends, of course, any sympathy is in short supply. They have had to endure this kind of torture many more times than I have. They have assured me, however, that such familiarity does not make it any easier to take.

I was brought up - like most of you - on La Nazionale being international heavy-hitters, particularly at the World Cup. We finished in the top four in four of the first five editions that I can remember. Then we went and won it again in glorious fashion in Berlin to complete my beautiful lifetime double - so far - with Spain ‘82. There were flops, of course, but not being part of proceedings at all was simply unthinkable.

Even in my darkest hours - up until now - we always at least made it to the tournament. In ‘86, despite being far from brilliant, our title defence went as far as the knockout stages. But perhaps the warning signs were there in our last two expeditions - failure to get out of the groups in South Africa and Brazil hinted at a greater malaise. Our tumbling ranking, a shrivelling supply of world class players and Giampiero Ventura did the rest. Sweden administered the killer blow and they didn’t even need Zlatan Ibrahimovic to do so. I shall be boycotting Ikea for a while.

After the upset and anger came realisation. The weeks we normally set aside for the intense form of torture and delight that only the Azzurri can provide would now be blank. It feels like reaching into the cupboard for your favourite bottle of grappa and finding that someone - probably you - has finished it. Despair, 100% proof despair.

The chances are that - due to logistics - relatively few Italians would have made the trip to Russia and it is not a nation renowned for a big immigrant community from the Bel Paese. So, most fans of the four times world champions would likely have been watching from home. These are special occasions for many of us around the world.

You see la partita - the match - is about a million other things apart from football. It is a chance to catch up with family and friends, share a drink or two and indulge in a gentle sfottò or two - poking fun at one another. There will likely be food before, during or after the game and the nice hit of a decent coffee - usually, but not always, at half-time. Then we suffer and celebrate together for 90 minutes or more before going our separate ways.

I have often hosted or been invited to such events and they consume the days before a tie in glorious fashion. You get the drinks in, prepare the food and deck the house with as much green, white and red as you can possible find. This summer, however, the flags will stay stuffed at the back of the cupboard and the latest Italy kit will remain on its coat-hanger in the wardrobe.

Others might measure it in financial terms - loss of revenue from food, merchandising and advertising and the likes - but for us fans dotted around the world it is a more emotional matter. An enormous global community has been left without a vent for its pride and passion for the first time in 60 years. There will be no battering out the Inno di Mameli like would-be Gigi Buffons for us on this occasion.

So the living room seats will be empty, the olives will stay at the back of the fridge and the coffee machine will not be required to go into overdrive. I could try to pick another team to support but, in truth, I know it would be a hollow exercise. I will try to fill out the wallchart, maybe, but I will always be looking for that missing name.

I can only hope that everyone connected with the Italian national team fully understands what they have done to me and millions of others, and are hard at work to ensure that it never happens again.

A World Cup without Italy is, for us, like having leftover pasta sauce in your bowl without a good hunk of bread to soak it up - a crying shame. We’ll get over it, maybe - we just need a year or two or three or four.

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Have your say...
In response to "Luciano", it is hell living in England when world cup is on. I just pray they go out soon although I have a horrible feeling they wont. Ventura should be sent far far away never to be heard of again, he is a disgrace, anyone with anything about them would have resigned in shame not tried to get every last penny out of the FIGC. Anyone who sets a team up like he did in Spain isn't worthy of coaching a pub team. We need to look forward now, we cant go back.
on the 20th June, 2018 at 9:56am
Well seeing what Ventura said in article makes me hate the guy even more. Hope this guy never works again in Italy. Can’t totally blame him for failure but it started and ended with him. never should have been chosen, then had gall to not resign immediately.
laughed where he says HAD we qualified, I woulda called Balo for WC.... yea ok
on the 20th June, 2018 at 12:12am
Why was Barzagli recalled by Ventura when he opted to retire after Euro 2016. Why not start playing more with Romagnoli ,Rugani.

And Buffon did great in Euros but since then his reflexes have slowed, and Perin would be better first choice.

Candreva, Parolo, Eder, Montolivo, etc, stuck around too long and that cost Italy. If Jorginho had been part of team sooner, and team would've had more chemistry between 2016-2018, it would've gone qualified. Also Chiesa, Bernardeschi, El Shaarawy, Insigne
on the 19th June, 2018 at 9:19pm
I agree Ventura was pathetic, and had weird formation.

But something more has been wrong.

He blames De Rossi, and De Rossi blamed him, and while the senior players were there, they didn't seem to want
Balotelli, and now that coach changed, Balo's back.

Under Conte in 2016, squad seemed united, but 2 years later, there were lot of differences. Whatever it is, and if it's related to the old players, its time to change now, and start with a young attacking team
on the 19th June, 2018 at 9:13pm
History is a wave that goes up and down and eventually repeats itself. We hit some depths and -very slowly- we're climbing out. Climbing doesn't always mean going up all the time. There will be dips where it feel like square 1 for a short while; like getting out of a (mental) depression. Todays football needs to be fluent and flexible and the "old Italian tradition" of defence needs to return. I used to be proud when people became desprate because of our back line :) I want to grin with approval
on the 19th June, 2018 at 1:26pm
Hearing Ventura's rant about "being Italy’s punching bag" and accusing players of lying to make him look bad seem to prove what a terrible appointment he was. He doesn’t seem to understand that the buck ultimately stopped with him. He was way out of his depth and I only wish the Italian football federation had the courage to sack him before the play-offs. Can you imagine if someone like Baggio was put in charge? He may have been able to pull off a Zidane; who knows what could have happened.
on the 19th June, 2018 at 10:23am
Yes, I agree,we may have stuck with the old guard and failed at the first had we qualified. But Italy have a habit of proving doubters wrong and this may have been the case in Russia. I thought England were poor yesterday, particularly in the second half. The reaction of the pundits was totally over the top – it was as if the Three Lions had just beat Brazil! It’s tough watching, and vociferous texts from my English friends are like daggers in my heart; especially when they pull off a fluky win!
on the 19th June, 2018 at 10:16am
@ Luciano eh look it’s only first round of games.some kinks and nerves to work out. Argentina slipped hard.
BUT yes I thought that too in 2 ways: “Ventura’s Italy” had they made it and FIGC didn’t fire him would of been team that showed up like v Macedonia,and muster only draws at best.
Realize they would be in group D in Croatia spot.
Now with Mancini Italy w/ Buffon,Balo,Chiellini,maybe Derossi who knows!
Id be so psyched. Think we’d have a great chance.
Yet that’s what Fn’ hurts so bad.
on the 19th June, 2018 at 1:30am
Yeah blame Juve..either Napoli or inter fans who make the blame. You should look at your own clubs. Them including Juve not picking and producing young players because they aren’t good enough anymore that’s why they buy foreign players to make their teams better. Saying Buffon should of retired after 2014 is silly? Why? They wasn’t any good Italian keepers coming through. Only Perin is decent. Donnarumma will never be another Buffon more closer to Galli. We have no fuoriclasse players anymore.
on the 18th June, 2018 at 6:27pm
Even now Mancini says door isn't closed to the old players, but if they continually disappoint for national team, it's time to close the door.

Start with the youth, and hopefully within 4 years, they would improve further as players (need to get chances with clubs too), have good chemistry and get used to each other's movements, and do well.

Like how Lippi had a team with everyone at same page in '06. No more infighting in teams / disagreements etc.

Barzagli, De Rossi etc. stuck too long.
on the 18th June, 2018 at 4:45pm
I don't agree that Italy would've done well had they sneaked through qualifying. I was a big fan of Buffon in 2006, and also the Juve players as a core did well in 2012, but after 2014, it was time to change and retire the old people.

If Italy sent a young and exciting team, they could've done well but a squad of same people that Ventura selected, .. it would've been trounced by teams like Croatia, and barely manage draws against Iceland etc. so would've gone out at group stage.
on the 18th June, 2018 at 4:42pm
Brazil look terrible maybe in worse than 4 years ago, Germany have not changed one bit since 4 years ago and see they seem to have fallen into the same trap Italy did of relying on the old players and they paid the price against Mexico.
Still impossible to believe Italy are not there esp with the standard being so low just adds to the heartache that we weren't even good enough to get to play this bunch of clowns!
on the 18th June, 2018 at 2:24pm
Just as in 1958, 2018 is a continuation of the Azzurri "12 year cycle", a cycle which falls on The Chinese Year of the Dog. It began in 1934 and has only produced two winners. Both Brazil and Italy have won 3 world cups each in this cycle. It could be argued that the failure in 1958 was a result of the Superga tragedy 9 years earlier which robbed both Torino FC and the Azzurri of a golden generation of players. This is not the case in 2018 and not qualifying for Russia is inexcusable!!
on the 18th June, 2018 at 1:26pm
Am I crazy or is the standard of the big boys at this WC somewhat underwhelming? And is it equally insane to suggest that, had we got there, Italy would have done just as well if not better?
on the 18th June, 2018 at 10:26am
C'mon Poland - the Leicester City of international football!
on the 17th June, 2018 at 6:43pm
Italy have gone downhill since 2006. They don't have the talent anymore. No great defenders like they used to have, is their downfall. Italy always did well because of their defense. They not always had great attackers and midfielders. Their defense made up for that. Now that they don't have that they're rubbish, and will continue to be rubbish until they produce great defenders again.
on the 17th June, 2018 at 5:54pm
Which national team at 2018 WC has the biggest number of Serie A players? Poland are seven: Szczesny (Juventus), Cionek (SPAL), Bereszynski, Linetty, Kownacki (Sampdoria), Zielinski, Milik (Napoli).
on the 17th June, 2018 at 8:27am
Spinnazola Caldara Darmian if possible...Juve's tryin people Juve's tryin "sighhh!!!!!.
on the 16th June, 2018 at 10:31pm
@ Luciano S
Qualifying if we do, won't be good enough. Italy has to win a major tournament to regain heavyweight status and wipe the shame of this.
on the 16th June, 2018 at 2:02pm
We are complex, unpredictable (often ending disappointingly), stylish yet completely intransigent, vocal and frustratingly unwilling to take the easier path. But we are Italian and when the stars align every twelve or so years we are special. I wouldn’t want to anything else… just a little better at channelling our talents and coordinating our output. We have the ability, we just need to use it in the right way.
on the 16th June, 2018 at 11:13am
Italy will always qualify from now on. That's yet another tragic strand from our non-qualification. The Euros have expanded and so will the WC so Italy will have to finish third to realistically have any chance of going out. We are not, and never will be, HUNGARY! What we are is a group of disorganised individuals who are able to (sometimes without logical reason) perform to the highest standards. No other nation would have beaten Brazil in '82, no other nation would have beaten Germany in '06 -
on the 16th June, 2018 at 11:06am
People who think Juventus are to blame for the downfall of Italian football are really dumb. Juventus has been the only relevant Serie A team in the last 7 YEARS! Time to wake up and realize that the reason Juve sign foreigners is because foreigners are better lol. If Italian youth was better juve would use them are you guys serious?
Either way blam juve all you want, but juve will still keep Serie A relevant while milanese clubs fail miserably as usual.
on the 16th June, 2018 at 3:29am
Wow you ppl are still really sad lolol dont worry calcio king thats just the old losers logic these weirdos come up with because lets face it, After 7 years of extreme levels of beat lol there really isnt much else for these sad ppl.
on the 16th June, 2018 at 12:36am
"everyone connected with the Italian national team fully understands what they have done to me and millions of others, and are hard at work to ensure that it never happens again."

I fear they aren't working that hard. Yes, they've hired a competent CT. Bu what else? Is anyone addressing the real and very deep underlying problems with Calcio? Hey, there is no guarantee that italy will qualify every year anymore... maybe we become another Hungary, a once great footballing nation. Wake Up Italy!
on the 15th June, 2018 at 11:15am
Hey Football Italia. Can we keep this blog going during the whole tournament please? The hurt will only get worse and there is still so much to say.
on the 15th June, 2018 at 10:16am
I'm far more upset about the dire lack of Italians playing for top Serie A league teams & this is the big issue. I cant be overly romantic about Azzurri, since 1990 we have usually crashed badly in tournaments with star players in the side & only occasionally risen as protagonists when written off, its always a rough ride of self inflicted mess. But we must have Italian representation in our league, our game will die otherwise. As a Juve I'm disgusted by the clubs current disregard to Italians.
on the 15th June, 2018 at 8:23am
Yup as usual IT'S ALWAYS JUVENTUS AT FAULT....YA GOTTA STOP WITH THIS BULL FOLKS.The nazionale lost against a well organized Sweden plain and simple...Blame figc and ventura for freaks sake NOT JUVE! what the [email protected] do they have to do with Italy out of the world cup.GIMME A BREAK PEEPS.
on the 15th June, 2018 at 3:12am
Right now Mancini is all we have and he is on right paths he took the job for less money so we can see he is not in it for the money as the others were. But he will need the support of the league and figc or he hopefully will blow it up. There is more talent in seria B as we see the promoted teams coming in and out bringing new faces to the league and that is a good place to start looking. Stop looking in one place which it think Mancio is on right path. He needs the fans behind him.
on the 15th June, 2018 at 12:20am
>>> the IRONY is or was an average Sweden beat Italy playing like Italy not needing a win. They shut them out. With Italy only needing a single goal, could barely threaten goal.

As for this WC it seems so diluted,and Odd >No Holland,Chile,USA,Ghana. Instead Peru,Tunisia,Iran,Panama,SA,Australia.
+ Spain firing coach days of start.
surprise exclusions of top players from final rosters of France Brazil Germany Argentina.
I’ll wait to watch just semifinal and final.
on the 14th June, 2018 at 11:07pm
>>> when Prandelli they started getting that magic back with all new players/next generation after 06’. 2nd at euros. Then 14’ after starting well,losses 2 and again failed to get out of group stage. Kicked in the gut AGAIN! this rightly called for damage control by FIGC. So Conte answered the call albeit by the money thrown at him. For JUST 2 years with the weakest Azzurri in history. almost pulled a miracle. ...Then with WC 18 looming the put in Ventura... no need to go on further, we saw it.
on the 14th June, 2018 at 10:48pm

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