Soccer: Soccer-‘We want a unique Italy’ – deja vu for the Azzurri as World Cup playoffs beckon

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(Reuters) – Italy have been right here earlier than. And it didn’t finish effectively.

4 months on from their Euro 2020 triumph, Italy’s 0-0 World Cup qualifying attract Northern Eire on Monday opened the door for Switzerland to seal computerized qualification from Group C, condemning the Azzurri to a playoff spot as soon as extra.

The European champions didn’t qualify for the final World Cup after defeat over a two-legged playoff to Sweden – the primary time they’d not reached the finals of the event since 1958.

The playoff system is completely different this time, however fears linger in terms of Italy’s prospects of reaching a finals by way of the again door.

Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport’s headline on Tuesday, following the Northern Eire stalemate, insisted the nation wanted “a unique Italy” crew, one that may get the job accomplished, whereas Gazzetta dello Sport mentioned the “nightmare continues.”

HOW DID IT GET TO THIS?

The brand new World Cup playoff system implies that Italy should get previous two groups to achieve Qatar – by way of a one-legged semi last and a last.

Whereas head coach Roberto Mancini was adamant that they continue to be assured of reaching subsequent yr’s finals, there was bewilderment as to why didn’t qualify routinely.

“We must always have sealed qualification at the very least two video games in the past,” Mancini mentioned.

“We had the probabilities and did not take them, now we have got to maintain our toes on the bottom, as a result of there’s nonetheless the opportunity of qualifying for the World Cup.”

Since profitable their second European championship in July after beating England on penalties at Wembley, Italy drew 4 out of 5 World Cup qualifiers, towards groups under them within the FIFA rankings.

Even with their stuttering kind – falling on the semi-final stage when internet hosting the Nations League finals final month – Italy seemed to have unconvincingly edged themselves into place to safe computerized qualification towards Switzerland final week.

Nonetheless, midfielder Jorginho’s last-gasp missed penalty took qualification to the ultimate spherical of video games with the Swiss getting over the road, as recollections of the Sweden embarrassment got here flooding again.

“We have to recharge the batteries, each bodily and psychological, rediscover the dedication and pleasure in our soccer that we had on the Euros,” captain Leonardo Bonucci mentioned.

“We performed soccer with the enjoyment of doing it and never with the strain of getting to show one thing. Maybe changing into champions of Europe has unconsciously modified one thing.”

The Azzurri have definitely turned issues round beneath Mancini following that disappointment towards Sweden 4 years in the past, coming full circle to take the Euro 2020 crown.

Their World Cup hoodoo, nonetheless, is proving harder to shift.

(Reporting by Peter Corridor; Enhancing by Shrivathsa Sridhar)



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