4-time champ Italy fails to qualify for World Cup

Bandera (Visayas) - - NEWS -

MILAN — Four-time champion Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades after losing its playoff to Sweden 1-0 on aggregate. They played to a goalless draw in the second leg at San Siro yesterday.

Sweden advanced to its first World Cup since 2006.

It could have been worse for Italy, as Sweden was denied what looked like two clear-cut 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.

After winning the World Cup in 2006 for a fourth time, Italy went out at the group stage of the next two editions. It fared somewhat better at the European Championship, reaching the final in 2012 and going out in the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2016. — AP

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