Heart­bro­ken Ital­ians de­mand an­swers af­ter World Cup ‘apoc­a­lypse’

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FOOTBALL -

MI­LAN: Af­ter the ini­tial shock and dis­be­lief, heart­bro­ken Ital­ians Tues­day de­manded an­swers as to why the one-time stars of the global game had missed the World Cup fi­nals for the first time in 60 years.

The Ital­ian press called it an“apoc­a­lypse” for the four-time world cham­pi­ons, who failed to qual­ify for the 1958 World Cup but have played ev­ery other edi­tion apart from the in­au­gu­ral tour­na­ment in 1930.

Tear­ful cap­tain Gian­luigi Buf­fon quit in­ter­na­tional foot­ball and coach Gian Piero Ven­tura said he would con­sider his fu­ture af­ter the Az­zurri drew 0-0 with Swe­den Mon­day to lose 1-0 on ag­gre­gate.

There was dis­be­lief among the 75,000 fans in Mi­lan’s San Siro Sta­dium with 14.8 mil­lion stunned Ital­ians watch­ing their na­tional fall from grace on tele­vi­sion.

The Ital­ian foot­ball fed­er­a­tion called cri­sis talks for Wed­nes­day with 69-year-old Ven­tura ex­pected to be sacked with fed­er­a­tion chief Carlo Tavec­chio also un­der pres­sure to re­sign.

“As you know, it’s up to the boss to take re­spon­si­bil­ity. If I were him [Tavec­chio], I’d re­sign,” said Gio­vanni Malago, the pres­i­dent of Ital­ian Olympic Com­mit­tee CONI.

For many the de­feat re­flects a pro­found malaise in Ital­ian foot­ball with the 2006 World Cup tri­umph hav­ing been fol­lowed by early ex­its from the last two World Cups.

Sports Min­is­ter Luca Lotti lamented “a very sad day for sport”.

“It’s clear we must re­build the

world of foot­ball and that we have to make de­ci­sions that we may not have had the courage to take in re­cent years,” said Lotti.

“We did not dis­cover the prob­lems yes­ter­day. We have been elim­i­nated in the group phase of the last two World Cups. There is so much to do, now we must take this op­por­tu­nity to re­build Ital­ian foot­ball from youth level up to Serie A.”

For Buf­fon it was a na­tional catas­tro­phe more than a per­sonal dis­ap­point­ment. “I’m not sorry for my­self but all of Ital­ian foot­ball, be­cause we failed at some­thing which also means some­thing on a so­cial level,” he said.

The 39-year-old goal­keeper, who has 175 in­ter­na­tional caps and was

an in­te­gral part of the 2006 World Cup vic­tory in Ger­many, had been hop­ing to com­pete in a record sixth World Cup.

But Ven­tura made no an­nounce­ment about his po­si­tion de­spite fail­ing to lead the 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006 win­ners to their 19th World Cup.

The for­mer Torino coach said he would first talk to the fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion on his fu­ture. “Re­sign? I don’t know. I have to eval­u­ate an in­fin­ity of things. I have not yet spo­ken to the pres­i­dent,” said Ven­tura. “It doesn’t de­pend on me, I’m not in the state of mind to face this ques­tion.

“It’s a very heavy re­sult to bear,

be­cause I was ab­so­lutely con­vinced that we had this fe­ro­cious de­sire to over­come the ob­sta­cle.”

Fans were strug­gling to come to terms with the prospect of a World Cup with­out their team.

“It is re­ally very sad be­cause watch­ing the World Cup was some­thing that re­ally brought us to­gether as Ital­ians,” grad­u­ate Ste­fa­nia Pusateri said.

“But what is sure is that the shock will be even worse for my fa­ther. He is 54 years old and he has never had to go through some­thing like this.”

Drink­ing cof­fee the morn­ing af­ter, young Ro­man Carlo said Ven­tura did not de­serve all the blame.

“The truth is we haven’t re­placed

the play­ers we had in the past. World-class play­ers like Roberto Bag­gio, [Alessan­dro] Del Piero, [Francesco] Totti: they just aren’t there any more.”

The eco­nomic fall­out of de­feat was im­me­di­ately felt with shares in the coun­try’s lead­ing sports pa­per La Gazetta dello sport plum­met­ing on the Mi­lan stock ex­change.

Shares were sus­pended in the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon af­ter drop­ping 8.83 per­cent.

“The fact that Italy will not par­tic­i­pate in the World Cup is a new neg­a­tive for the me­dia sec­tor,” said an­a­lysts Equita of the global show­case which “at­tracts im­por­tant ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue.”

La Gazzetta gen­er­ated over two mil­lion eu­ros in ad­di­tional rev­enue from ad­ver­tis­ing dur­ing Euro 2016.

Its ban­ner head­line Tues­day morn­ing stated sim­ply: “End,” while a head­line on its web­site de­clared: “Italy, this is the apoc­a­lypse.”

“Wasted chances, a bit of bad luck but zero goals in 180 min­utes against the Swedes, who will go to Rus­sia,” the daily com­mented.

Cor­riere dello Sport said it will be painful to be on the side­lines when the ac­tion starts in Rus­sia in June.

“It is an in­tol­er­a­ble foot­ball shame, an in­deli­ble stain,” the news­pa­per said.

“It is over. Apoc­a­lypse, tragedy, catas­tro­phe.” –

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