No Italy in World Cup? It ‘s likely ...

The Sunday Independent - - SPORT -

MI­LAN:For­mer play­maker An­drea Pirlo joined the crit­i­cism af­ter Italy’s 1-0 de­feat to Swe­den on Fri­day left the four-times cham­pi­ons on the brink of miss­ing out on the World Cup fi­nals for the first time in 60 years.

Italy, whose last fail­ure to qual­ify for the fi­nals was in 1958, have to beat Swe­den by two goals in the re­turn leg to­mor­row in Mi­lan to avoid what the head of the fed­er­a­tion, Carlo Tavec­chio, has dubbed the “Apoca­lypse”.

But their tooth­less per­for­mance on Fri­day – the lat­est in a se­ries of lack­lus­tre dis­plays – has done noth­ing to re­as­sure their sup­port­ers that Gian Piero Ven­tura’s side is up to the task.

Gazzetta dello Sport de­scribed their dis­play in Swe­den as “poor and con­fused” and Tut­tosport said “enough of ex­cuses, now we have to avoid a his­toric em­bar­rass­ment”.

“Italy looked like a scared team that was play­ing for a 0-0 draw. In Eu­rope, that is not enough,” Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia.

The 38-year-old, who has just con­firmed his re­tire­ment, also had lit­tle sym­pa­thy for Ven­tura’s com­plaints about the ref­eree.

“It’s a red her­ring,” he said. “Play­ing in Eu­rope is not like in Italy, where you get a free kick for even the slight­est con­tact.

“In these matches you need to be above all that and give 100 per­cent; it’s in these matches that you see the real play­ers.”

“It will be tough for Ven­tura to find the right words to say to the group,” added Pirlo, who was filmed watch­ing the game on a sofa with a glass of wine in his hand and stroking his beard.

“There will be two very in­tense days, full of pres­sure and the coach must have in mind the line-up that he is go­ing to field,” he said on Fri­day.

Pirlo added that it was no good hop­ing that home ad­van­tage would sway the tie Italy’s way.

“San Siro will make its pres­ence felt but I’ve never seen a goal scored from the stands.” – Reuters

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