play-offs, oh despair / CDM 2022 / Qualif / Northern Ireland-Italy (0-0) /

Four months after being crowned on the roof of Europe, Italy is forced to once again go through the “dams” box to hope to take part in the next World Cup. Unthinkable, but very true.

Italy should have known that something was wrong. Three days ago, at a time when the Nazionale was preparing to receive Switzerland in a face-to-face with daggers drawn, Giampiero Ventura put a definitive end to his activities in the world of football. A coincidence ? Certainly, but when we remember that the former coach failed to qualify Italy for the Russian World Cup, sixty years after the last Italian road exit in the exercise, the symbol appears stronger than ever. From an unnamed tragicomedy. As if it were set in stone that whatever Ventura did, near or far, would affect the transalpine selection until its last breath. Obviously, to make matters worse, the septuagenarian with the appearance of a black cat could not help but announce this to the Stampa the day of the match: “I wish Mancini good luck and I hope he can go to the World Cup and win it. (…) I’m sure of it: we’ll go to the World Cup.  » Obviously, nothing has gone as planned so far.

The party is over

If Italy did not beat Switzerland (0-0) with a (new) penalty missed by Jorginho (his most serious candidate for the Golden Ball) as in the first leg, Roberto Mancini’s team did not even manage to capsize Northern Ireland in Belfast on Monday evening. A new zero and goalless score, of a poverty close to the level displayed by Italy in 2017, which would almost make you forget the last dream months experienced by the whole Boot. This time when Italy capsized England at Wembley to become European champion, this time when Italy broke the unbeaten record (37 consecutive matches), this time when Italy delighted even French observers by his game, by his offensive and exciting style. Instead, this Italy is again incapable of creating danger, sterile as it can be, and which has even come close to falling to Northern Ireland.

But beware: if Switzerland composted its ticket for Doha in first class by overtaking Italy at the buzzer, it owes it to two factors. To its regularity, already, and to its constant progress for several months. But also and above all to the fascinating ability of this Italy to drown alone in a glass of water. Faced with the Swiss, the troupe of Italian acrobats did not seize the opportunities that presented themselves to them to kill the suspense. At Parc Saint-Jacques, Yann Sommer succeeded in disgusting Azzurri (0-0) who should have whistled the end of recess at that time. This Monday evening, this is what confirmed between the Mancini lines at the end of the rout in Northern Ireland: “It’s a shame because the group should have been concluded before this match. We just have to find what has distinguished us until today, and think that we missed two penalties in decisive matches (against Switzerland). When you don’t mark the opportunities you have, you can clearly find yourself in trouble.  » Yes, today is too late.

Doubt is back

Without losing a single match during these qualifiers, Italy finds itself in play-offs. In 2017 – the year that the majority of transalpine tifosi had tried to forget – she had logically had to let Spain pass before her. This time, it was Switzerland which toasted him politeness. It is this same Nati that the Nazionale had broken at the Euro (3-0) without trembling from start to finish, she also deprived of certain executives in the final sprint (Embolo and Xhaka among others), who fell asleep tonight with dreams in her head. As for the Mancini flock, the next few weeks promise to be long.

The draw for the play-offs will take place on November 26, when Italy will know which two teams will potentially stand in its way. The names already present are chilling the spine: Portugal, Russia, Poland or even the Swedish nightmare have already reserved their spring to do battle. Meanwhile, the Italian coach continues his positive speech as much as possible to dispel the shadow of doubt that is becoming more and more pressing: “We must recover forces for the dams in March. If we will go to the World Cup? I’m totally confident, and maybe we’ll even win it …  » After transforming a dying team into a winning machine, the providential man must fulfill a new mission: to repair his creation so as not to miss a second World Cup in a row. In history, this has never happened. And if that were to happen, there would be no point in blaming Ventura.

By Andrea Chazy

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