Italy fail to reach World Cup after play-off defeat by Sweden
14 November, 2017, 00:41 | Author: Douglas Reid
Italy will miss out on the World Cup for the first time in 60 years as Sweden secured a precious goalless draw that punched their ticket to Russian Federation thanks to a 1-0 aggregate win.
The 39-year-old Buffon - bidding to reach a record sixth World Cup Finals in Russian Federation - is one of the last survivors of Italy's golden generation of 2006 World Cup winners.
While Ventura's predecessor Antonio Conte guided Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 - beating Belgium and Spain along the way before going out on penalties to Germany - many felt that the team had overachieved and that the task facing Ventura would be a challenge.
Trailing 1-0 on aggregate to a Jakob Johansson goal scored in Friday's first leg in Stockholm, Giampiero Ventura's Azzurri were cheered on by nearly 72,000 Italian fans in Milan. Sweden are a solid side and their behavior will make little difference, it all depends on us.
The last major competitions Italy missed were the 1984 and 1992 European Championships. The Italy coach will naturally take the lion's share but the Azzurri's problems run much deeper. Italy are meanwhile superstars having won the competition four times - 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006 - and lost two finals in 1970 and 1994.
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The lack of stars in the Italy team is reflected in the Italian league.
The increasingly execrated Ventura yielded to the incessant calls to use Napoli pass-master Jorginho in midfielder by handing the Brazil-born player a first competitive Italy cap.
Those fears proved well-founded in the first leg in Stockholm, where Italy went down to a 61st-minute deflected strike from Jakob Johansson.
Two minutes into the second half the Italian wide players combined, Candreva crossing and Darmian, at the far post, controlling. "We invite them to support us, but realize the time has come for us to show them what we've got".
Meanwhile, the highly rated Lorenzo Insigne surprisingly played only 15 minutes of the playoff - and out of position.
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Against a well-oiled machine, they will have periods in the game where they control possession but I didn't think they hurt us. Crystal Palace midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek has set his sights on playing for England at next summer's World Cup.
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Tunisia claimed the other spot despite being held to a goalless draw at home by Libya in Group A of the African qualifiers. DR Congo were the only team still with a chance to catch Tunisia, but they fell short despite a late 3-1 win over Guinea.