Italy’s loss against North Macedonia was a tragic end to the their World Cup qualifying campaign and forced an entire country into a deep analysis of what’s gone wrong over the last nine months. How did the best team of the summer 2021, one that won UEFA Euro 2020, fail to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup 2022? It’s a question that will haunt Italians for the next four years. It was hard to believe that the same people who celebrated in the streets last July will see the most important soccer competition of the world without their team involved. It’s now time to reflect on what happened and why this happened to the Italy again.
After failing to qualify for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, Italy’s next appearance will hopefully be in 2026, twelve years after its last one and if a 12 year absence from the top of the international game doesn’t make you stop and take stock, it’s hard to imagine what will. Roberto Mancini is responsible for what happened in the last four years. He was the main reason why Italy won the Euros but also one of the reasons why Italy failed to win its group and was forced into a playoff against North Macedonia and then why the last match ended the way it did.
Mancini accomplished a lot with Italy
The current situation is very different than where Italy was in 2017, when they lost against Sweden to miss out on the Russia World Cup. That team had played consistently poorly. But, Mancini started a new cycle, one which saw considerable success. It brought Italy their second Euros in history, the first trophy since the 2006 World Cup. It was overall an exciting and successful period and nobody really expected Italy to win the trophy last summer, expect Mancini. It was his tactics that elevated that side to play above their skill level and he was the reason why Italians found again satisfaction in watching Italy’s matches. He restored the quality of soccer to the highest it had been in many years.
Additionally he developed young players, bringing guys like Nicolò Zaniolo and Giacomo Raspadori into the squad and giving them the trust needed to be part of the team. Ultiamtely Mancini helped this young generation grow and Italy can look at the future with some optimism thanks to him. Had this qualification campaign ended differently, it’s possible he could have led this group for some years to come, as he has a deep knowledge of the dynamics of the generation he’s developing.
But some failures are just too big to survive
However, it’s extremely likely that after Tuesday’s match against Turkey he will leave the National Team. “Failing to qualify for the World Cup was the biggest disappointment of my career”, he said after Thursday’s clash against North Macedonia. After such as failure it’s difficult to find the motivation to continue and additionally it becomes harder to have the trust of the players and especially the fans. It’s reasonable that he might possibly prefer to be return to managin a club as well, and this is the perfect timing to leave Italy.
The question is, who will replace him? Initial reports coming from Italy suggest that former captain Fabio Cannavaro could be his replacement, with former Italy coach Marcello Lippi to be a sort of technical director alongside. It’s definitely too early to know anything for certain but they are the early names to watch out for. Also, Carlo Ancelotti has always considered the idea of becoming Italy’s coach one day, but whether now is the time will depend on his Real Madrid’s future. Another possible candidate being put forward is current Shakhtar Donetsk head coach Roberto De Zerbi. All these names will be discussed after Roberto Mancini’s decision is made official and that is not expected to arrive until after Tuesday’s clash against Turkey.
A new era is about to start, and hopefully for Italy it will be one that ends the World Cup drought and keeps the Azzurit participating in every World Cup for a long time.