The World Cup is the world’s most coveted sporting competition, attracting billions of viewers worldwide every four years. But this year a major powerhouse and one of the world’s most renowned teams, the Italian national soccer team known also as the Azzurri, didn’t qualify for the competition. There are a couple of factors that contributed to this devastating failure, but most Azzurri fans are blaming one man: head coach Giampiero Ventura.
A huge part of making a team as strong and as powerful as possible is the coaches and managers. After Italy got knocked out of the 2016 UEFA European Championship, the head coach Antonio Conte resigned, which left a the head coach role vacant. Giampiero Ventura who previously coached for the successful 2016-2017 Torino F.C squad, hopped into position and the Italians were optimistic for the new change. Right off the bat, on September 1st, 2016, he lost his first game, an international friendly against France with a score of 3-1. However, a few days later, he won his first game, a 3-1 win over Israel, which was also their first qualification match for the 2018 World Cup. The squad had a steady run, until the past month when they lost two matches to Sweden during the qualification playoffs with a score of 1-0 on aggregate, which resulted in them being eliminated from the competition.
Many Italian people worldwide became infuriated at Ventura because he introduced formations and tactics that had never been heard of before with the national team. An example of this was his much-criticized decision of putting the team into a 4-2-4 attacking formation, which he justified by telling the ESPN interviewers, “we have a lot of attacking wide players at the moment and the 3-5-2 [formation] penalises them”. As a squad, the team is used to other formations, like the 3-5-2 and the 3-4-3, but the introduction of the 4-2-4 made no sense to the team. As a result, the team performed poorly, and obviously, they had a very low success rate.
Another huge reason that they didn’t perform as well as they were projected to is Ventura’s stubbornness in excluding star players when they were vitally needed on the field. A prominent example of this was his exclusion of star winger Lorenzo Insigne in the recent games against Sweden. Italian fans rooted for Insigne to sub on, but the decisions of Ventura made it clear that he had no intentions of listening to the massive Azzurri fan base. That eventually led to a huge uproar to fire him, as fans believed that if he listened to feedback, the result would have been different, and in Italy’s favour. Daniele De Rossi, one of Italy’s elder midfielders was forced to warm up on the sidelines of the final game in order for him to be substituted near the end, and once he received the request, he became infuriated. De Rossi said, “they are playing for a win, not a tie” and that he should “put [Insigne] on”. Obviously, Ventura ignored De Rossi’s demand, and De Rossi proceeded to warm up, which shows that Ventura really led the team to the devastating loss.
Currently, the whole of Italy and most of the world is shocked that the giants didn’t qualify for the competition because they are usually a top contender for the cup. Just over a decade ago in 2006, they won the cup in penalties against France in Germany, and sadly, 11 years later, they fail to qualify for the first time in 60 years.
There are a couple rumours that the nation of Peru is losing their spot in the World Cup due to the team being owned by the state, which is against FIFA’s rules, many fans are speculating that Italy will take their place, which is highly unlikely. If that actually ends up happening and Italy takes their place, that would be one of the greatest scandals in FIFA’s history. The correct way to handle this is to gather a couple of the best runner-up teams that didn’t qualify, and have them compete in a “mini-tournament” for the empty spot.
Due to his decisions with the Azzurri, Ventura isn’t praised like past managers have been by worldwide Italian fans who are known for their strong support of their teams. No matter what goes on in the next couple of weeks with the Peru situation and the handling of the coaching jobs at the team, there is one thing for certain, and that’s the fact that for the first time in 60 years, the Italian national team is unfortunately out of the World Cup.