This is the second consecutive time that the Azzurri have missed out on qualifying for the tournament.
A major talking point from the 2018 World Cup in Russia was the absence of Italy. This time too Italy face a similar fate, as they again failed to qualify for the most prestigious football event. It is especially shocking for a country that boasts the presence of star footballers like Leanardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Lorenzo Insigne and Jorginho in their national team squad.
Italy’s inability to qualify showed that only having good footballers is not enough for a team to play well, it needs proper cohesion and coordination among players to succeed at the highest level.
The result of the 2020 UEFA Euros 📃
The most surprising aspect about Italy’s exclusion from the World Cup is that they are the defending European champions. They won the UEFA Euro 2020 after defeating England in the final in London. Naturally, commentators began to believe that Italy’s absence from the 2018 World Cup was an anomaly.
Many people began to regard the European champions as one of the favourites in the 2017 World Cup. All of this talk, however, was for naught when Italy faltered throughout the qualification rounds. Finally, it failed to qualify for the World Cup final rounds for the second time in a row, shocking Italian fans around the world.
The 2022 World Cup qualification rounds ⚽
Only 32 teams will participate in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the host nation Qatar being guaranteed a place. It means that all the other 31 teams had to battle it out among their continental rivals to book a flight to Qatar. This is where it all went wrong for Italy. Italy were placed in Group C of the UEFA World Cup qualification round along with Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, and Lithuania. The winner of the group, which was Switzerland, directly qualified for the World Cup while the first runner-up got a second chance to qualify by playing in the playoffs.
What was supposedly an easy group for the European champions eventually turned out to be quite difficult. They began well by winning their first three games. However, after that, from the remaining five games, Italy was able to win only one game. Overall, they won four games and drew the remaining four. As a result, they finished second in the group behind Switzerland by two points. In each of the games against the Swiss, Chelsea midfielder Jorginho turned out to be the villain as he missed crucial spot-kicks that could have sealed the points.
What occurred during the playoffs? ⚔️
It was not all over for Italy, at least not yet, as they had another chance to book their tickets for Qatar by qualifying through the playoffs. However, here also, Italy lost the plot. While many were speculating about the result of Italy versus Portugal match in the qualification round (as Portugal was also playing in the qualification round in the same group), North Macedonia had other ideas. They met Italy in qualifiers before Portugal and proved to be too strong for the four-time world champions.
In the qualifiers, North Macedonia pulled off arguably the biggest shock of the qualification round by beating Italy 1-0. Eventually, Portugal defeated North Macedonia to qualify for the World Cup. Yet, North Macedonia would cherish their victory over the four-time world champions. On the other hand, this defeat meant that despite being European champions, Italy will miss out on a World Cup spot for the second time in succession.