Put your pasta out for Italy

The Daily Examiner - - NEWS | OPINION - OUR SAY BILL NORTH Ed­i­tor

I CAN’T help but feel a sense of clo­sure fol­low­ing Italy’s World Cup qual­i­fier loss to Swe­den.

The team, who in 2006 knocked out the best ever Soc­ceroos side cour­tesy of Fabio Grosso’s ex­tra time the­atrics be­fore go­ing on to lift the World Cup, will not fea­ture at the fi­nals in Rus­sia for the first time since 1958.

An over­rated team that has al­ways grafted out re­sults in ugly, un­con­vinc­ing fash­ion, they were 26th in 2010 and 22nd in 2014 and have fi­nally been dealt the most crush­ing blow of all.

But will my some­what spite­ful sat­is­fac­tion prove pre­ma­ture? Af­ter all, this has been the qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign of gi­ant killers, with the Az­zurri join­ing the likes of 2010 run­ners-up Nether­lands, 2016 Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup run­ners-up Chile, African giants Ivory Coast and Cameroon, and USA on the side­lines.

It’s an omi­nous trend fac­ing the Asian Cup cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia, who should by rights dom­i­nate Hon­duras tonight at ANZ Sta­dium, judg­ing by how well they han­dled their swampy con­di­tions last week.

But the Italy exit is ex­actly why the World Cup must re­main a 32-team for­mat, not the 48 pro­posed for 2026.

As we have just seen, the pos­si­bil­ity of big teams miss­ing out and min­nows like Ice­land and Panama get­ting in gen­er­ates in­ter­est months ahead of the tour­na­ment proper.

At risk is the pres­tige of sim­ply be­ing at the World Cup.

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