Sweden shatter Italy’s World Cup dream
Milan: Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 after they were held to a goalless home draw by Sweden in the second leg of their playoff yesterday.
Sweden advanced to its first World Cup since 2006 with their players celebrating wildly after the final whistle, even destroying a makeshift broadcast panel beside the pitch as they mobbed the commentators.
It could have been worse for Italy, as Sweden was denied what looked like two clearcut penalties for handballs, first by Matteo Darmian and then Andrea Barzagli. Italy had a penalty appeal of its own waved off by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz when Marco Parolo was tripped from behind by Ludwig Augsustinsson.
But the Azzurri struggled to carve out clear chances against a solid Sweden side, and really tested goalkeeper Robin Olsen only once. This will be only the second World Cup missed by Italy. The first was in 1958.
The last major competitions Italy failed to qualify for were the 1984 and 1992 European Championships.
It would be easy to lay the blame squarely on Gian Piero Ventura. The Italy coach will naturally take the lion’s share but the Azzurri’s problems run much deeper.
The rot started long before Ventura took charge.
Alessandro Florenzi of Italy reacts after losing to Sweden on November 13, 2017 in Milan.