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For Italy the Apocalypse is now

Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon ended his international career on Tuesday as Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.(Photo
by Gianni Merlo, AIPS President, La Gazzetta dello Sport

MILAN, November 14, 2017 - Italy is out of the 2018 World Cup. It is a great shock - the bitterest of realities for Italian football – which has gone back to the humiliation of 1958 when it was eliminated in Belfast by Northern Ireland. Across the two knockout legs, Sweden was good at suffocating a confused Italy that lacked ideas and fully deserved to go through.

THE REPLACEMENTS Sixty years have passed and Italian football is experiencing a new phase of de-evolution. Some clubs are doing well enough at a European level, but they have still not found the heirs of Totti, Del Piero, Baggio and Pirlo. The men who created the game. We do not see exciting young talents coming through. The good players that Italy does have today were used wrongly by the coach, Gian Piero Ventura, who had befuddled ideas. He did not have a single move. He managed to make Italy small, very small.

THE PRESIDENT "If we lose it will be an Apocalypse...,"president of the Italian Football Federation Carlo Tavecchio had said ahead of the duel with Sweden. And Italy is now in the midst of that Apocalypse. Public opinion now isn't just asking for Ventura's head but also for Tavecchio's. They want him to leave his post as soon as possible. Not only has he proved unfit for the job, but it was him who chose Ventura, the most inadequate of coaches for the task at hand.

THE DECLINATION After the success of 2006, the Italian national team switched off. In 2010 and 2014 the Azzuri did not make it past the World Cup group stages. Which means that today's apocalypse has far-reaching origins and is the result of controversial choices that have led to the current breakdown.

There are some who claim that the youth sectors of clubs are now overrun with foreign players and that there is no longer ‘a true Italian’ school.

Others more simply hope that Ancelotti arrives to address Italy's technical concerns. There are also other names being mentioned, such as the return of Conte, or Allegri, but why should they risk their pedigrees in such a delicate moment, especially if the Federation cannot guarantee very high salaries.

100 MILLION The only thing certain is that this elimination will cost the Federation at least 100 million USD, an important figure that risks to leave the Federation on its knees, especially because now, all credibility has been lost. The team will not be easy to reconstruct, because sustaining a strong football federation is not in the interest of Italy’s biggest clubs. All we can hope for is an adequate compromise.

DISRESPECT Yet another moment of unacceptable shame on the night was when a part of the audience at San Siro - only a part really - whistled the Swedish national anthem ahead of the match.

THE PLAN After the match, Buffon – at 40 years old – wept. He said that the loss would also cause huge social harm to the nation, and he is right. The only positive is that many things will change, fast.

Along with the goalkeeping great, De Rossi and Barzagli, and perhaps also Chiellini, are ending their careers with the Azzuri. Gone with them is a bit of history, and the future does not look bright.

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