The 0-1 loss to North Macedonia was a punishment for the arrogance of coach Roberto Mancini, and brought Italy back to the reality of a football with many problems.
When the Italian team returned to the old trough
The 57-year-old military leader did not believe this could happen to him. Even when Italy played badly in many consecutive matches and then had to enter the play-off round to compete for tickets to the 2022 World Cup, he still said firmly: “We will definitely go to Qatar”.
This belief appeared even before Italy was crowned at Euro 2021 . Mancini also believes that Italy “can win the World Cup” despite not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Italy completely flew after Wembley night. The team met President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace, marching through the seven hills of Rome like heroes.
They are described as a great team, fighting for each other, with a coaching staff that is Mancini’s former teammates in Sampdoria, birth and death , even overcoming cancer like assistant Gianluca Vialli.
Not only winning on the pitch, the team is also admired for its modern way of playing, pressing high and attacking comprehensively. It contrasts with the conservative defensive ideology that many other teams have displayed.
But the dream fell apart . Aleksandar Trajkovski’s shot engulfed Italy at Renzo Barbera Stadium. This is where the team chose to be their home ground as a way of paying tribute to the fans of the Palermo club, which has already been relegated, and also shows that they consider the 90 minutes against North Macedonia just a stepping stone. They only talked about Portugal, the opponent that Italy could face if they beat North Macedonia.
But as it turns out, Renzo Barbera is not a fortress. It is where the Italian dreams are buried. The field has sheltered Trajkovski, a former player of theirs since 2014, when he was a striker for Palermo.
“How could this happen to us,” said Mancini, his face shocked as he watched Trajkovski score Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal in the 92nd minute. continue talking. “What happened is really hard to explain. We won glory, and then lost humiliatingly. The days to come will be very difficult.”
Until the match on March 25, Italy had only lost one of the previous 41 consecutive matches – against Spain in the Nations League semi-finals in October 2021 – when Leonardo Bonucci received a red card right in the first half. Mancini even set a new record for consecutive wins as a national team coach. Considering this frame of reference, it is unfair to lose only one more match, Italy has missed the ticket to the World Cup at the end of this year.
But this failure was foretold . Before North Macedonia were draws with Bulgaria in Florence with a score of 1-1, draws with Switzerland 0-0 and 1-1 respectively in Basel and Rome, and a draw with Northern Ireland also 0-0 in Belfast. Jorginho missed a penalty against Switzerland, while 32 shots against North Macedonia failed to hit the net once.
Leonardo Spinazzola’s injury still helped them win the Euro, but its consequences were serious. Spinazzola’s left wing played an important role in the upswing, something Emerson couldn’t fill. While Lorenzo Insigne is in decline, Federico Chiesa is not fit enough. Ciro Immobile is still just a “wooden leg” on the team and Domenico Berardi continuously wasted golden opportunities against the hands of goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.
North Macedonia ranked 67th FIFA. Italy ranked sixth. Goran Pandev – the greatest player in this football – retired from the team after the Euros at the age of 37. The most famous one, Eljif Elmas, now playing for Napoli, did not play last match because of a suspension.
No shot was on target at Donnarumma until Trajkovski swung his shot in stoppage time . Therefore, this defeat is even more shocking, making Italians recall the history of being eliminated by North Korea in the 1966 World Cup, and most recently, losing to Sweden in the play-off round of the 2018 World Cup.
This is Italy but not the team that won the Euros. They are no longer united and strong as before. Jorginho’s two consecutive missed penalties against Switzerland is a bad omen. “A pessimistic atmosphere enveloped the team,” wrote The Athletic before the match. Force much chipped team. The defense is not intact. Gianluca Mancini and Alessandro Florenzi start.
Gianluca Scamacca and Nicolo Zaniolo are in high form but only in the stands instead of the starting lineup. Mancini still uses Nicolo Barella but ignores a Davide Frattesi who is in very good form at Sassuolo. He followed in the footsteps of Enzo Bearzot and Marcello Lippi after winning the 1982 and 2006 World Cups: overconfident that the team was loyal to him. He was too arrogant.
Failure indicates that the Euro 2021 championship is only a temporary success when the Italian football system is still inadequate. The race for the Serie A title is engulfed by a debt of three billion euros that the teams are burdened with and no Italian team has reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Paolo Nicolato, coach of Italy’s under-21 team, said this week that he is unable to find a good young striker at the moment, while Gabriele Gravina, president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) put the figure at only 30% of the under-19 players. in Italy are indigenous people.
With Gravina, Mancini is not a criminal but a victim. Absence from the 2022 World Cup does not put pressure on Mancini’s chair, at least from the Federation side. It’s like a cycle. Just as 2017 started with Mancini after the 2018 World Cup qualifying defeat, so will 2022 with a loss to North Macedonia. The problem is still the poor force for the team, the training problem, but there is no curse here.
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