It’s all unraveled over the course of the past few months, and for the Azzurri, the inconceivable is now a major threat.
New logos, kits and players, but the same problems remain. Gian Piero Ventura is a lost man in a very unforgiving terrain, even more so, his inexperience in navigating international football is showing. An elder was supposed to be the one who introduced younger players into the fray, and while he has, the results and performances have left a lot to be desired.
Even though Italy has won six out of their nine qualifiers and accumulated 20 points, it still wasn’t good enough. The performances against Macedonia stand out while failing to really punish Liechtenstein really glare in a negative light. But the seeding and ranking crisis extends back almost a decade and it’s taken until now, in 2017, for those consequences to begin to be felt.
As absolutely dumbfounding as the FIFA Ranking system is, it holds a lot of weight. Previous qualifying groups were almost decided before the first ball was kicked for Italy. But due to years of not taking friendlies and other smaller qualifiers seriously, the Azzurri had to overcome a rampant Spain – it didn’t happen.
Yes, there were certain aspects that Ventura could not control, but he failed to manage properly the things he could. While he has introduced a slew of young talents and for what it’s worth, has truly started a youth movement in the Nazionale, his tactics and approach to big games has always been totally wrong. There’s no grinta or the “military-mentality” that Antonio Conte instilled into the side; it’s a decadent, decaying misfit of players in a formation they have no business being in.
Taking on Spain in a 4-2-4 was a suicide mission, deploying a 3-4-3 against Macedonia was just… Daft.
The playoff picture for Italy isn’t looking good, there isn’t much advice or free football tips Ventura could use as this point besides totally upending his tactics, which isn’t going to happen.
The Italian FA (FIGC) in recent months have been avoiding talk of the “apocalypse”, or Italy failing to qualify for the World Cup, but it’s time to face the reality, there’s a serious chance it may happen.
As of now after nine matchdays, there are a slew of potential giants that could be forced to play in November. Teams like Portugal, Sweden, Croatia and Wales are currently in second place. There’s a very real chance the Azzurri could be grouped with either Portugal or Croatia, again because of their poor ranking. Other potential teams would be Northern Ireland, Scotland, Montenegro or Denmark. There’s also an outside shot Portugal could overtake the Swiss and send them to the playoffs, or Ukraine pulls a miracle and usurps Croatia’s spot. Slovenia isn’t dead yet and nor is the Republic of Ireland.
With one matchday yet to play, there’s a lot of possible scenarios that sees the playoff picture morph. Best case scenario would be for Ukraine to take Croatia’s spot and have Portugal beat Switzerland. Ukraine does in fact host Croatia in the finale as does Portugal against Switzerland. The two potential giants Italy could face, may very well not be in the playoffs.
More good news in that regard is despite Italy’s all-time low in the rankings, several of their potential opponents would be ranked lower than them. Avoiding Portugal or Switzerland does seem like a formality, but again, it’s a playoff and anything can happen.
With a slew of critical injuries and a lost locker room, the Ventura project is dead and regardless of how this all ends, if Italy want to compete in the future they may need to consider a coaching change in November.