Italy Fail to Reach World Cup as Sweden Qualify
MILAN (Dispatches) - Italian football boss Carlo Tavecchio said recently that failure to qualify for the World Cup would be the apocalypse and his worst fears came true on Monday as they missed out on the finals for the first time in 60 years.
A desperate 0-0 draw at home to a defiant, belligerent and technically inferior Sweden ended the four-time world champions’ hopes of reaching next year’s finals in Russia and with it the international careers of several of Italy’s biggest names.
The Swedes, whose starting lineup included only four players based with teams in Europe’s so-called big five leagues, will take their place after qualifying for the first time since 2006.
Italy’s 1-0 aggregate defeat in their European playoff, after Jakob Johansson’s deflected strike in Stockholm, is likely to go down alongside elimination by North Korea at the 1966 World Cup as one of their greatest football debacles.
The Italians have only failed to qualify for the tournament once before - missing out on the 1958 finals in Sweden - after not entering the first World Cup in 1930.
The players sank to their knees as the final whistle went, the starkest possible contrast to the Swedish joy, knowing that the match will leave an indelible stain on their careers.