The 2018 World Cup qualifying cycle has been one of high-profile failures. More than many, and perhaps any that came before it, it has been one of shocking, immense disappointment. And in its final week, it just claimed its most famous victim: Italy.
The Italians missed out on their first World Cup in 60 years in very Italian fashion, by going scoreless over 180 minutes and losing 1-0 on aggregate to Sweden.
Looking for the best online betting site? Visit Heritage Sports!
They had been outplayed and beaten by a deflected shot in Solna three days earlier. They couldn’t manage an equalizer Monday in Milan. They are not going to Russia.
They will howl about the refereeing over the two legs. They felt Sweden’s physicality in the first went unpunished, and a couple penalty-box fouls in the second went uncalled.
Since winning the 2006 World Cup in Berlin, Italy has faltered on the global stage. In both 2010 and 2014, the Azzurri failed to escape the tournament’s group stage. Seven years ago in South Africa, they managed just two points in a weak quartet and finished behind New Zealand. Four years later in Brazil, the favored Italians and English gave way to Costa Rica and Uruguay.
Italy isn’t only notable team to miss this World Cup.
The Netherlands, who lost to Spain in the 2010 final and finished third in 2014, didn’t even advance to the European qualifying playoffs after yielding to France and Sweden in Group A.
“I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football. We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes,” Italian goalkeeper and captain Ginaluigi Buffon said.