GIANNI MERLO / AIPS in MILAN*: So Italy are out of the World Cup. It is the bitterest of realities for Italian football, recalling the humiliation of 1958 in Belfast against Northern Ireland. Over the two legs Sweden suffocated a confused Italy who lacked ideas. They fully deserved to go through.
Some clubs are doing well enough at a European level but the game has not found the true heirs of the likes of Francesco Totti, Alex Del Piero, Roberto Baggio and Andrea Pirlo. Then the best players Italy do have used wrongly by the coach, Gian Piero Ventura, a man with muddled ideas. He managed to make Italy small, very small.
Carlo Tavecchio, president of the Italian federation, had said ahead of the duel with Sweden: “If we lose it will be an apocalypse . . .” and Italy is now in the midst of that apocalypse.
Public opinion is not demanding only the head of Ventura but that of Tavecchio and as soon as possible. Not only has he proved unfit for the job, buthe was the man who chose Ventura, the most inadequate of coaches for the task at hand.
After the World Cup triumph of 2006, the Italian national team switched off. In 2010 and 2014 the Azzurri did not make it past the World Cup group stages. This proves that today’s apocalypse has far-reaching origins and is the result of a series of mistaken choices.
Some critics claim that clubs’ youth sectors are now overrun with foreign players and that there is no longer ‘a true Italian’ school.
Others more simply hope that Carlo Ancelotti can be persuaded to address Italy’s technical concerns. Other names have been mentioned, such as Antonio Conte or Max Allegri. But why should they risk their reputations atsuch a delicate moment, especially if the federation cannot guarantee very high salaries.
Elimination will cost the FIGC at least $100m, a significant figure that risks leaving it on its knees, especially because now that all credibility has been lost.
Another moment of shame on the night was when a part of the audience at San Siro whistled the Swedish national anthem ahead of the match.
After the match captain Gigi Buffon – at 40 years old – wept. Along with this goalkeeping great, De Rossi and Barzagli, and perhaps also Chiellini, are ending their careers with the Azzurri. Gone with them is a bit of history and the future does not look bright.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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