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Does Italy Need a Cultural Reset After Failing to Qualify for World Cup?

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Does Italy Need a Cultural Reset after Failing to Qualify for World Cup?

“It’s Coming Rome”. Those were the words that echoed around Wembley on a warm July night as Italy claimed their first silverware in 15 years, winning the European Championship after a penalty shootout win over England.

Just eight months later, the Azzurri were crushed, failing to take one of their 32 shots as a late 92nd-minute strike by Aleksandar Trajkovski sent underdogs North Macedonia through the World Cup qualifier final against Portugal. Does Italian football need a rethink and who could help do it if they want to make the World Cup in 2026?

Euro 2020

Under the management of Roberto Mancini, the dark horses of Euro 2020 swept everyone aside. Coming out of a group with Switzerland, Wales and turkey without even conceding a goal, the Italians then saw off stiff opposition in knockout games against Austria, Belgium and Spain.

A final against defacto hosts England then was the only thing in Italy’s way. Despite a 2nd minute strike from Luke Shaw, the Italians kept their composure. Leonardo Bonucci levelled in the 2nd half and just like so many stories of English heartbreak, penalties saw Italy clinch the trophy to be crowned the best in Europe.

A whole country rejoiced. Italy, a team that wasn’t even at the last major tournament, snatched the trophy ahead of powerhouses like France, Spain and England.

Italy’s Quick Fall From Grace

Attention now turned to their world cup qualifying group. Lithuania and Bulgaria seemed easy enough and despite Northern Ireland and Switzerland proving to be awkward opponents over the years, Italy should have enough, especially after winning their first three games.

Come the 5th of September, Italy started to feel a little bit of pressure. A shocking 1-1 draw at home to Bulgaria was followed by a stalemate in Basel, where Jorginho missed a penalty.

The Swiss were suddenly back into the game and heading into the final round of qualifiers, the two were level on points with two games to go. A grudge match at the Stadio Olimpico, which ended in a 1-1 draw, meant Italy had to match Switzerland’s result against Bulgaria to book their ticket for Qatar.

Northern Ireland, a team that was playing for pride at this point, proved their great defensive credibilities and halted the Italian charge at Windsor Park. Switzerland’s thrashing of Bulgaria by a 4-0 scoreline meant that for the second successive campaign, Italy would have to face a play-off.

Sweden proved to be too much for Italy back in 2018 but the Tifosi felt more assured of making it to the World Cup, with North Macedonia and then most likely Portugal in their way.

It would prove to be one of the darkest nights in Italian football. North Macedonia faced 32 shots in Palermo, but only four were on target. With the game going past the 90-minute mark and extra time looming, the unthinkable happened. A strike by Aleksandar Trajkovski travvelled past Gianluigi Donnarumma into the bottom left corner.

Mancini was stunned. Giorgio Chiellini was stunned. A country was stunned. The European Champions would not be at the World Cup. The first question to ask was who was to blame for this catastrophe?

Reaction after the game from their former Manchester City manager showed how hurt he was, stating the defeat to be “the biggest disappointment” he had experienced in football.

Nations League Outright Odds

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Italy to win the 2022/23 Nations League @ 7/1

Who was to Blame for Italy’s Failure?

Italy’s ultimate downfall was their inability to find the net in crucial moments. Most of the blame was thrown at Ciro Immobile. Despite the Lazio striker impressing in Serie A for a number of seasons. Mancini’s trust in the striker seemed to have cost the Azzurri, netting only two times in qualifying.

When the next world cup comes along, it would have been 12 years since Italy’s last exposure on the world’s biggest stage. Some big changes will have taken place, with Chiellini and Bonucci most likely in retirement and Lorenzo Insigne leaving Europe at the end of this season, these three stalwarts will be out of the question by the time the 48 team tournament begins in North America.

Euro 2024 Outright Winners Odds

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Italy to win Euro 2024 @ 8/1

The Future Is Bright

Alessandro Bastoni, a title winner with Inter, is having his best season so far averaging 7.26 in games this season. This centreback will ultimately be one of the replacements for either Bonucci or Chiellini.

Meanwhile, already established duo Nicolo Barella and Federico Chiesa are just 24 and 25 years of age, whilst the already highly reputable Donnarumma has 42 caps for Italy at 23-years-old.

Up-front, all eyes are looking toward Daniel Maldini and Nicolo Zaniolo. Maldini, unlike his father and grandfather who dominated the centre-back position at the San Siro, is a threat to defences, averaging 6.92 successful dribbles per 90. Zaniolo, who’s touted as the new Totti, averages 2.5 shots per game as Jose Mourinho looks to slowly introduce the wunderkind into his Roma side.

By the time 2026 comes around, it will have been 12 years since Italy would have played at a World Cup. With a bright new generation and even more spots, the Azzurri surely couldn’t miss their third straight World Cup. Could they?