2018 World Cup failure:Who will rescue Italy from this mess? - FCNaija

Features By: Linus Onyeze | 14/11/2017

Placed in Group G, along with Spain, Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein, the task was pretty straightforward and easy, some might have argued. Finish top of the group, or second at worst, qualify for the playoffs, then win the playoffs and progress to the World Cup. Simple, right?

But no, Italy, apparently, didn’t read the memo – at least not the whole of it. They did finish in the playoff zone quite alright, but how about finishing the job there and making it to Russia? That wasn’t the case for them, and now, somewhat of a footballing tragedy has hit the country.

And because of that, November 13, 2017 will forever remain marked in the minds of Italian football fans. For it was the date the unexpected happened. Yes. Italy will not be at the World Cup next year. And this miss will be their first in 60 years. If you’re superstitious, note it happened on the 13th. They say nothing good happens on the 13th, but it was the same date Sweden qualified for the World Cup, wasn’t it?

This is the story of the Italian football team, nicknamed the ‘Azzurri’, the ‘Blues’ in English. After the 1-0 loss to Sweden in Stockholm last Friday, it didn’t seem too much a big deal for the Italians, after all, why wouldn’t they be able to overcome a one-goal deficit against Sweden at home. But the rest as they say, is history.

Gian Piero Ventura has since resigned, but it might be argued he should never have been appointed in the first place. The 69-year old replaced Antonio Conte as the Azzurri coach, but from day one, has seen his tactics criticized, even by many of the ultras.

His insistence on the 4-2-4 often leaves them exposed against tactically disciplined sides. And that was the case against Sweden in the first leg, as the Swedes exploited the spaces Italy left behind in the middle, with the wide attackers in the front 4 not covering quick enough for the two central midfielders.

The damage is already done and Italy will need to move forward, but who do they bring in? it is a tough question, but I would pick Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri. Juventus’ Max Allegri and Inter’s Luciano Spalletti are options, but I would think Sarri would be the more amenable option at the moment.

The Napoli boss has in many ways, got the Naples club going in a way neither Walter Mazzarri nor Rafael Benitez could manage. His system looks the perfect fit to the players currently at the disposal for the Italian national team.

The 58-year old has got Kalidou Koulibaly and Raul Albiol being comfortable on the ball, being able to keep it under pressure and playing out from the back and into the midfield. Doesn’t that remind you of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini? With Sarri’s Napoli, as soon as the ball crosses over into the oppositions half, the movement of the midfield three and the attacking trio changes as the striker and the left winger will often come short to link up with the midfielders. Think about Marco Veratti, Daniel Di Rossi, Antonio Candreva, Lorenzo Insigne (who is also part of the Napoli team), Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti.

In all, and at this point, it would seem Sarri is the perfect man to get Italy over this mess and bring them back into international reckoning.