Monday was a very dark night in the history of Italy as they failed to qualify for the World Cup. Franck Kessié will also not play in Russia in 2018, but Ricardo Rodriguez & Nikola Kalinić will.
After losing 1-0 in the first leg, Italy faced Sweden for the second leg of the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier play-off at Stadio San Siro on Monday night.
Gian Piero Ventura played Leonardo Bonucci from the start in a back-three, leaving Gianluigi Donnarumma on the bench. Ventura (finally) played Napoli’s Jorginho from the start but inexplicably left arguably the best Italian player right now, Lorenzo Insigne, sitting on a cooler next to the bench for the entire match.
Italy had all the possession in the world as Sweden spent the whole match defending (very well) and trying to hit the Azzurri on the break. But Italy just couldn’t score as there were so many bad crosses, bad decisions in the final third and some excellent saves from F.C. Copenhagen keeper Robin Olsen.
Ventura brought on Andrea Belotti, Stephan El Shaarawy and Federico Bernardeschi in order to try to score a goal and take the match to extra-time. But even De Rossi screamed at one of Ventura’s staff members when he told him to start warming up, as he was caught on video saying ‘why the f*** should I go on? We need to win, not draw’ and then pointed at Insigne, who will face Milan Saturday.
After 93 tense minutes, Antonio Mateu Lahoz blew his whistle for the final time. Italy paid for the continuous stubbornness and stupidity of Ventura. They are out of the World Cup. For the first time since 1958. People have lived their entire life knowing that some things are constant: Italy being in the World Cup was one of them. But not anymore. Ventura must go, FIGC President Carlo Tavecchio must go, this is a failure of unbelievable magnitude, a truly tragic and dark night in Calcio history.
Gianluigi Buffon retired from the Azzurri and now Gigio Donnarumma will be the first-choice goalkeeper of Italy. Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini also played their last Italy match last night (De Rossi retired as well), making way for the likes of Alessio Romagnoli, Daniele Rugani and Mattia Caldara. A new generation must grow from this ‘apocalypse’ as the Italian newspapers are calling it.
The 0-0 result was not good for Italy, but it worked just fine for Croatia. Ante Čačić played Nikola Kalinić for 78 minutes on Sunday night in the second leg against Greece in Piraeus. Croatia had a 4-1 lead from the first leg and they their job in the second to book a place in Russia in 2018.
Ricardo Rodriguez meanwhile was once again instrumental for Switzerland as they took on Northern Ireland. The Swiss had a 1-0 lead heading into the second leg thanks to a Rodriguez penalty in Belfast. Switzerland nearly paid in the 90′ minute for the incompetence of striker Haris Seferović, who had a shocking night, but Rodriguez made a crucial goal-line clearance to keep it 0-0 until the end.
Switzerland and Croatia have both qualified for the World Cup, but Franck Kessié and Ivory Coast failed. On Saturday they hosted Morocco in a direct clash for a place in Russia, but lost 2-0. Nabil Dirar (25′) and Medhi Benatia (30′) scored for the Atlas Lions. Kessié will watch the World Cup on TV.
Friendlies are also played in this break and last evening Hakan Çalhanoğlu played 74 minutes as Turkey were defeated 3-2 by Albania in Antalya. The Milan midfielder was not among the scorers. Turkey, like Italy and Ivory Coast, will not be playing in the World Cup next summer.
Matteo Gabbia‘s Italy U19 friendly against Hungary U19 was cancelled. Moving on to today’s matches, Suso will look to finally get his Spain debut when they play Russia in Saint Petersburg (19:45 CET kickoff) after coach Julen Lopetegui didn’t get him involved in the 5-0 win of Spain against Costa Rica on Saturday. André Silva and Portugal take on the USA in Leiria (20:45 CET kickoff) while Colombia and Cristian Zapata have a match against China in Chongqing (13:30 CET kickoff).
Italy U21 also have a match today, they face Russia U21 in Frosinone (18:30 CET). Manuel Locatelli, who captained the Azzurrini in their friendly against Pescara, and Patrick Cutrone, will be in action.