First Italy were knocked out of 2022 World Cup qualifying, then they lost the Finalissima to Argentina, and now manager Roberto Mancini could leave.
It’s been one hell of a run for the Euro 2020 champions, who were kings of the continent less than a year ago but are now in the midst of disaster.
The Azzurri’s final victory over England at Wembley Stadium was followed by draws against Bulgaria, Switzerland and Northern Ireland in the Qatar 2022 qualifiers, setting up a tantalizing final game against the other giants of the Portugal.
However, Mancini’s men couldn’t even make it, losing to North Macedonia in the play-off semi-final – with a stoppage-time winner from Aleksandar Trajkovski causing the shock of the tournament before even though it did not take place.
Former Italy boss and three-time European Cup-winning manager Arrigo Sacchi was reeling from the loss and offered a stark conclusion.
“President Gravina is a competent man, he will have to analyze the situation coldly and not be overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment,” said the former manager of AC Milan.
“I hope he doesn’t intend to fix everything by dismissing the coach, the trouble is more serious, much more serious.
“Italian football suffers from a cultural backwardness, there are no new ideas. Other nations are evolving and we are sixty years behind.
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“I will say it clearly: the least guilty in this situation are the players and the coach. Here, the problem is institutional.
A 2-1 Nations League loss to Spain in October ended an incredible 37-game unbeaten streak, and two more defeats have since followed.
The latest came in their big comeback at Wembley in the legendary Finalissima, where they were played off the pitch by Copa America champions Argentina in a 3-0 defeat that only left worsen the misery of Italy.
So much so that former Manchester City boss Mancini is now considering his future, with reports claiming the Premier League title-winning manager has his sights set on the Paris Saint-Germain job.
Mancini had previously rejected offers to leave his job, with Newcastle regularly linked, and even Manchester United.
The 57-year-old has decided to stay in his role, however, but reports suggest his previous engagement may be short-lived.
A lot has changed with Italy since their big win last summer, and a team that looked like a less than perfect striker when they beat England now look miles away.
Talismanic centre-back Giorgio Chiellini has retired, while giant shootout winner Gigi Donnarumma has looked like a shadow of his former self since signing as PSG’s new hope in the goals.
Federico Chiesa was Italy’s most eye-catching Euro star but the Juventus ace hasn’t played since January with an ACL injury, while key compatriot Lorenzo Insigne walks away from the big moment with a stint in MLS.
There are problems all over the pitch now, and many of them have always been there, with Qatar surprisingly being the second consecutive World Cup the Azzurri have missed.
The quadruple world champions have only ever missed one tournament.
Solutions are dotted throughout Serie A, with stars such as Sandro Tonali, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Alessandro Bastoni set to become first-team regulars for the national side, but things are far more complicated than that.
“Winning the Euros is part of the magic of this tournament, now we have to start over and get that magic back,” Mancini said after his loss to Argentina.
“In football everyone is behind you when you win and when you lose almost everyone turns against you. That’s how it is.
“Argentina are in better shape at the moment and maybe for the first time in three and a half years we found a team that really dominated us, at least in the second half.
“It takes time, we can’t just invent new players straight away, we knew it would be a difficult process. It’s going to be a total reset, a lot of players have already left and weren’t able to play. four games, it would have just created even more problems in September.
“The reset is from now, not September. That’s not to say that those we see today won’t be around in the future, but the new era begins tomorrow.
This new era comes against Germany in the Nations League on Saturday night [7:45pm kick off] – and with a desperately needed but possibly impossible squad turnover, Euro 2020 could well be seen as a flash in the pan for a failing giant.
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