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On the surface, there is a clear culprit behindItaly’s footballing nightmare, which saw the national team eliminated bySweden in their World Cup qualifying playoff: Gian Peiro Ventura. As the head coach, the 69 year old isresponsible for his team’s performance and results.

However, his team didn’t even play all that bad. In their 180 minutes of football against Sweden, the Italians played with passion, commitment and heart. It was onlythe result that shocked the nation, and that’s Ventura’s responsibility. He probably won’t be allowed to carry on as national team coach.

Faced with Sweden’s ultra defensive setup, the Italians provedincapable of scoring a single goal. It’s ironic that the four time World Cup winners would be eliminatedby an opponent playing a form of the catenaccio, a defensive tactic cultivated by the Italians for decades,which so often allowed them to win games by scoring just a single goal.

For decades, the Squadra Azzura had fielded teams capable of turning upthe offensive pressure and forcing in a goal whenever needed. Against Sweden, though, Ventura’s team proved solely capable of mindless, sometimes furious attacks hectic desperation as opposed to unhurried superiority.

What was missing was the peace of mind and brilliance of an Andrea Pirlo, who could always surprise his opponents from a set play;
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or the creativity and goal production from the midfield provided by a Francesco Totti;or the clinical finishing of a Luca Toni just to name a few.

The last in a series of mysteries is why in the second leg, when Italy desperately needed a goal, Ventura chose to leave in form Napoli winger Lorenzo Insigne on the bench. In the end, ateam of good footballers played with passion against an underdog and failed although none of them actually played poorly. So how could this happen?

It will all work out somehow

Italy were left in a difficult position after head coach Antonio Conte, having failed to take them past the quarterfinals at Euro 2016, left the national team to join Chelsea. The Italian FA was forced to replace a coach they would have liked to have held on to.

The solution that the Italian FA came up with was a clear demonstration of their helplessness and lack of ideas. The renewal that was so sorely needed in both in the team and the training staff following Euro 2016 never materialized.

Now Italy have paid the price. They had probably hoped that any old coach could lead a team that includedplayers likeGiorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzaglito Russia. Somehow, things would all work out in the end. Following the nightmare in Milan, it’s time for a rethink about everything.

Ventura failed to further develop any of these players, and failed to instill the sort of brilliance in the build up, which was so sorely missing against Sweden. And what’s more, those who hired Ventura in the first placehad to know that what they were getting inhim was anything but an innovator.

The comingdays, weeks and months will be painful for all involved with Italian football. Coming to terms with failing to qualify for the World Cup will take some time. The good news for Italian football is that apart from the inconsolable Gianluigi Buffon Chiellini, Barzagli and Daniele de Rossi have all retired from the national team. True, these are allgreat players and their contributions to the national team deserverespect. But so dotheir decisions to step down andpave the way for a true renewal of the national team.

For this is now imperative and the next squad to represent Italy, needs to include as few as possible of the big names who were part of thatnightmare against Sweden.
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