Italy Fail To Qualify For World Cup 2022

FIFA World Cup ITALY
Photo: FIFA

Italy has failed to qualify for the World Cup for the second competition running, Between 1930 and 2006, the Azzurri only failed to qualify once



Between 1930 and 2006, the Azzurri only failed to qualify once, in 1958. They won the competition four times in that period and were one of the most consistent teams after Brazil and Germany. They even hinted at a return to greatness in Qatar with the European Championship title in 2021, beating England on penalties in the final at Wembley.

That has proven to be a false dawn, and another miserable day has dawned in Italian football. None of their domestic clubs made it beyond the round of 16 in the Champions League, and no their national team won’t go toe to toe with heavyweights such as Canada and Qatar this coming winter.

The disaster unfolded at the Stadio Renzo Barbera in Palermo on home turf. A disastrous qualifying campaign saw the Italian side unable to win a group containing Switzerland, Bulgaria, Northern Ireland and Lithuania. They couldn’t beat Switzerland home or away, which wouldn’t have been a catastrophe had they done the business elsewhere. A draw with Bulgaria and another in a shocking final game away against Northern Ireland meant that Italy needed to negotiate a play-off for a second successive tournament.

Four years ago, that play-off saw them beaten 1-0 by Sweden, and this time the task was just as challenging. Their first game was against North Macedonia, a team that has never played at a World Cup finals and failed to pick up a point at Euro 2020. After that? 2016 European Champions Portugal would have been waiting, but sadly for the Azzurri, they failed to jump the first hurdle.

They dominated the match in front of 34,000 passionate supporters, with 65% of the possession and a whopping 32 shots on goal. However, only five of those were on target, and their failure to test the North Macedonian keeper adequately hindered them all evening. The front three of Domenico Berardi, Lorenzo Insigne, and Ciro Immobile couldn’t break down the defense of North Macedonia, who is ranked by Ladbrokes as less likely to win the tournament than Canada and the Republic of Korea. Then, with 90 minutes up and stoppage time ebbing away, the unbelievable happened; Aleksandar Trajkovski drove home the game’s only goal from the edge of the area. The 29-year-old, who plies his trade with Al-Fayha, spent four years in Italy with none other than Palermo. He bagged 20 goals for the Italian side, but no one will have struck at the hearts of his opposition as last night did.

The fallout will be long and hard. Goal suggests manager Roberto Mancini, lauded as a hero just nine months ago, will likely now lose his job. Not since England (1974 and 1978) has a former winner of the World Cup failed to qualify for two competitions in a row. No European Championship winner has ever failed to qualify for the competition just nine months after lifting their trophy; it’s a fall from grace like no other.

Will Italian football recover? Domestically, there’s a long way to go, and internationally the damage is likely to be severe. The harsh reality is that since the World Cup in 2006, Italy has been eliminated at the group stage twice and now failed to qualify twice. It’s been 16 years of regression, with their European Championship triumph merely providing a moment’s respite rather than a building block for the future.