It’s November 15th, and Italy have crashed out of the World Cup Qualifying playoffs in devastating fashion. What happens immediately in the aftermath?
There’s a very real scenario that sees the Azzurri failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, which in itself is very strange to contemplate. A decade of decay has finally hit rock bottom after two abysmal displays in the previous World Cups. Failing to qualify for the world’s greatest stage would have immediate impacts on and off the field, first off, the economical damage would significantly weaken the FIGC (Italian FA) to levels not seen in recent times.
But in any case, that would be the least of any fan’s concern. Not seeing Buffon bow out on the biggest stage, De Rossi and Marchisio not get to play in another World Cup would also be heart-wrenching. However, those three are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of players who would not don Azzurro again.
Gian Piero Ventura would either be immediately sacked or resign. It would be in fact the most embarrassing defeat for the Italians in well over half a century. Probably soon after, Carlo Tavecchio, the President of the FIGC would likely resign as the so-called ‘apocalypse’ comes true. Tavecchio has stated several times that Italy not qualifying for the World Cup would likely cause chaos within the calcio world simply due to the utter embarrassment in itself.
Moreover, the entire coaching staff would likely be fired or resign. Everybody from the team assistants to doctors would likely not return to Coverciano. With so many empty spots at the HQ, it’s conceivable that a wave of younger directors would be hired and begin to rebuild the federation internally. Domenico Albertini, who challenged Tavecchio for the Presidency would likely be the favorite or Serie B president Andrea Abodi, who has worked wonders in the second division could challenge.
Not safe from the wave of resignations and sackings would be Luigi Di Biagio, the current Italy U-21 coach. Disappointing results in the 2017 U-21 Euro and failing to properly prepare the youngsters for the senior national side would also end his tenure.
On the field, virtually every player over 33 would likely retire from national duty. That includes players like Giorgio Chiellini, Marco Parolo and Andrea Barzagli.
Those are just the immediate impacts, which would likely all happen within days or weeks of D-Day. The search for the proper personnel would commence immediately and the election for the new FA President would be called. At the moment, there’s no clear favorite, but Carlo Ancelotti and Fabio Capello would likely be approached by the new President. Cesare Prandelli, the coach of the Azzurri from 2010 to 2014 may also receive a phone call as he was the last coach to really put together a sustained project. Although not a very popular man among the players with his strict “ethics code”, it’s not beyond the realm of imagination to see him be approached.
While there are some obvious names, the new coach would have to be prepared to start from absolute zero. It would be the most inexperienced Italy side of the past four decades, perhaps even more. Ventura did attempt to start a youth movement, but his tactics and opposition didn’t mesh. There are pieces to pick up from, but the spine of the Azzurri would need to be resurrected, possibly around Leonardo Bonucci who would survive the disaster.
Bonucci is underneath the 33 year old threshold and has over 70 caps, making him the most experienced player of the new Italy. He’s captained the Azzurri before in major tournaments and is a known leader, albeit controversial.
Other players to point towards would be the obvious ones, Andrea Belotti, Manuel Locatelli, Daniele Rugani, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Leonardo Spinazzola, Federico Chiesa, Lorenzo Insigne and so on. There are lots of talented players in the Azzurri’s ranks, it’s just a matter of putting them in position and with the right environment to succeed.
Perhaps this would all serve as a wake-up call for youth players in academies all across Italy. There would be a lot of spots open for the taking, and which in turn could spark a revolution. The U-20 Azzurrini did well in the World Cup this past summer and there are plenty of names who may make the jump to the higher levels in the coming years. Riccardo Orsolini, Luca Vido, Nicolo Barella and many others. The future for Italian football is very bright, perhaps the best in years, but the current crisis at hand leaves no margin for error, and it would likely take a disaster to begin to rebuild properly.