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Sports News: Italy face World Cup nightmare against Sweden
For soccer giants Italy the subsequent few days may very well be a nightmare as they face a double-headed playoff in opposition to Sweden to keep away from the humiliation of lacking the World Cup for the primary time in 60 years.
“A World Cup with out Italy isn’t a World Cup” has change into the catchphrase of many Italians — four-time world champions — who’re perplexed at how the once-mighty Azzurri have fallen so low.
The final time Italy missed the World Cup was the 1958 version which was hosted in Sweden.
“I don’t even think about the concept of not qualifying. We’ll go to Russia for certain,” insisted coach Gian Piero Ventura, who took over from Antonio Conte after the 2016 European Championship.
“We’re Italy and lacking out on the World Cup is just not an choice,” added skilled centre-back Leonardo Bonucci.
The playoff places Italy’s proud report of World Cup participation in peril. The Azzurri are tied with Germany for many appearances by a European nation, 18. However Germany have already made certain of a 19th berth.
Italy are additionally the one one of many eight earlier winners not but certain of their place on this World Cup.
“Italy is Italy and has a selected standing in world soccer. And it’s inevitable that they’re favorite,” mentioned former Italy worldwide and ex-Manchester Metropolis coach Roberto Mancini.
“It’s certain at 100 p.c that we’ll be on the World Cup.
And traditionally after we battle to qualify then we normally make an enormous event.”
Italy final gained the World Cup in 2006 beneath Marcello Lippi with the hope that with their expertise, expertise and talent they might proceed to prevail in years to come back.
However regardless of a run to the Euro 2012 closing they’ve did not ship consistency on the large stage, though former Juventus boss Conte led them to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 with wins over Spain and Belgium.
After Conte’s, departure for Chelsea, the federation turned to the veteran journeyman Ventura, who’s had coached golf equipment in Italy in any respect ranges over 41 year’s.
The 69-year-old has typically nonetheless appeared overwhelmed by the duty, preferring to stay to his Four-2-Four tactical system to the detriment of the creativity of stars comparable to Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Motionless and Andrea Belotti.
Confidence took a knock throughout a troublesome qualifying marketing campaign throughout which they misplaced Three-Zero to Spain, and in addition struggled previous Israel (1-Zero) and Albania (1-Zero) whereas labouring to a dismal 1-1 draw at residence to Macedonia.
Italy journey to Sweden for the primary leg of their playoff on Friday in Stockholm with the return leg in entrance of a sell-out crowd in Milan’s San Siro on Monday.
The four-time winners have missed simply two World Cup finals — the primary in 1930 once they selected to not compete and in 1958 when they didn’t qualify.
However veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon — bidding to achieve a report sixth World Cup finals in Russia — and Italy’s defence must watch out for Sweden, the highest scorers among the many eight playoff groups, with 26 targets in 10 video games.
“They (Sweden) create a way of worry as a result of they at all times do the identical factor however they do it properly,” mentioned Buffon, 39, who sarcastically made his Italy debut throughout their final World Cup play-off 20 years in the past in opposition to Russia.
Buffon, then 19, got here on instead beneath the snow in Moscow after Gianluca Pagliuca was injured. Italy had been held 1-1 however certified within the return leg.
20 years on Buffon — now the Italy captain and report holder of 173 caps — shall be hoping his worldwide profession doesn’t finish the place it started with a playoff.
“We mustn’t really feel the strain as a result of it gained’t assist us,” insisted Buffon. “The necessary factor is the consequence is identical as in 1997.”