Category Archives: World Cup 2018

Italy sack Gian Piero Ventura after World Cup qualification failure

Published by:

The Italian Football Federation has sacked national coach Gian Piero Ventura as manager after the Azzurri suffered a 1-0 aggregate defeat by Sweden in the World Cup qualification play-offs that denied the national team a place in the tournament for the first time in 60 years.

In a statement on Wednesday night the Italian federation announced that the Ventura’s 16-month reign was over.

“At the meeting convened by the chairman, Carlo Tavecchio, which was attended by the presidents of the federal members a discussion was had following the failure of the national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup,” the statement read. “As a first point on the agenda, Tavecchio communicated a decision of the technical guidance committee, and to date, Gian Piero Ventura is no longer the national team head coach.”

The decision was taken after a heating meeting in which the Footballers’ Association president, Damiano Tommasi, walked out shortly after asking Tavecchio if he intended to resign, which the latter refused.

Despite his monumental failure, Ventura said his record was “one of the best of the last 40 years”.

“I lost only two games in two years,” he added in an interview with Italian television show Le Iene before the Italian Football Federation fired him on Wednesday.

Ventura replaced Antonio Conte as the head coach for Italy in June 2016, and was described then as a “master of football” by Carlo Tavecchio. However, Italy took one point out of a possible six against Spain in qualifying and also drew at home to Macedonia.

A decision is yet to be taken on who will succeed him, with Tavecchio telling reporters after the meeting that the federation have been “thinking of important names” to replace Ventura.

Sweden withstands Italian offensive to book place at Russia World Cup

Published by:

Sweden held out for a goalless draw against four-time world champions Italy in the playoffs to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 2006.

Jakob Johansson’s deflected strike in the first leg ultimately decided the tie in the Swedes’ favour, with his side’s only ambition was to repel at any cost the waves of attacks rolling towards them at San Siro.

They were able to endure despite Italy dominating proceedings at home in both possession and attempts, with Azzurri striker Ciro Immobile missing a number of chances and his low effort in the first half was cleared off the line by Swedish skipper and centre-back Andreas Granqvist.

Both sides could also have been awarded penalties: first with Ludwig Augustinsson bringing down Marco Parolo with a clumsy challenge while Matteo Darmian and Juventus veteran Andrea Barzagli were fortunate to escape with handballs for Italy.

Shortly after the game where Granqvist saw his team explode in celebrations, he was seen sporting a new haircut because of a promise made earlier in the qualifying campaign.

“I said to the lads in the dressing room that if we got to the World Cup they could shave it off,” he told reporters, smiling. “I thought they had forgotten it, but John Guidetti and Victor Lindelof shaved it off straight away,”

While Sweden celebrated at the sound of the final whistle, it was the end of an era for a number of Italian players as they retire from international duty.

Most prominent among them was team captain Gianluigi Buffon, who earned his 175th cap for Italy with the game and the 39-year-old goalkeeper confirmed it was his last international appearance, having announced his decision to retire from football at the end of the season.

“It is upsetting that my last match decided we didn’t qualify for the World Cup,” Buffon said. “I’m sorry. Not for me but for Italy. We blew something that could have meant so much. The only regret is that it ended like this.”

“The blame is divided equally among all of us. There must be no scapegoats. We win together and we lose together.”

“There’s definitely a future, because we have pride and strength,” he finally added. “We’re stubborn and hard-headed. After ugly falls we find a way to rise back up. A lot of these kids are talented, including Gianluigi Donnarumma and Mattia Perin. I wish them a lot of luck.”

Buffon was in goal for Italy when they won the World Cup for the fourth time in 2006.

Croatia and Switzerland qualify for World Cup with goalless draws

Published by:

Croatia and Switzerland are in the 2018 World Cup finals after both teams secured goalless draws put them through.

Croatia secured their place in Russia next summer by closing out a dour game against Greece that contained only one shot on target, although the were never in any danger after a comprehensive 4-1 victory in their first leg.

Greece’s coach, Michael Skibbe, made six changes to the team that lost heavily in the first leg and the home side produced a much better performance this time, but it remains that the team could not convert possession into results and never really looked like scoring and their one shot on target, an effort by Panagiotis Tachtsidis, was comfortably saved by Danijel Subasic.

And with their progress into Russia, Croatia has now qualified for 10 out of 12 major tournaments since the Balkan state was founded in 1991by winning all five of their play-off ties to reach either World Cup or European Championship tournaments.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill lamented the “cruelty” of Northern Ireland’s World Cup play-off defeat by Switzerland after they were ultimately denied a place in Russia by the controversial first-leg penalty.

A goalless draw in the second-leg was also enough to send Switzerland through to a fourth consecutive World Cup finals thanks to Ricardo Rodriguez’s penalty in the first-leg.

Rodriguez was also on hand to clear a Jonny Evans header off the line in stoppage time in the second leg while Michael McGovern’s goalkeeping and wayward finishing kept his team from extending their goal advantage.

“The cruelty is in the poorness of the decision that means we are missing out on the chance to go to a World Cup,” O’Neill said. “That is the cruelty. We should still be playing extra time now, that is the reality. Yes, Switzerland were the better team in the first leg but they didn’t score other than the penalty.”

“We were the better team tonight. For us to miss out because of that mistake, at this level and with those group of players who’ve given everything, is extremely cruel. We should be out on the pitch now fighting for a place in Russia.”

Buffon: Italy in “high tension” ahead of vital qualifier versus Sweden

Published by:

Italy’s veteran goalkeeper and captain, Gianluigi Buffon, said the team were in a state of “high tension” ahead of his team’s second leg match against Sweden in the World Cup qualifying playoffs.

Italy lost their first leg against the Swedes by 1-0, and will will fail to reach a World Cup for the first time since 1958 if they do not win the second at San Siro.

“We can make no mistakes,” Buffon said ahead of the vital game. “We are focusing on what we must do to win but if we fail to qualify everybody should take the blame. We are not stressed, personally I am focused on the game and I hope fans will support us. Sweden are a solid side and their behaviour will make little difference, it all depends on us.”

“We know we can win this game, we dream to qualify for the World Cup, it’s an important game for us and for the history of the national team.”

“I’ve already faced similar situations in my career, sometimes I’ve succeeded, some other times I’ve failed. The game means a lot for all of us, not only for me. My situation is not important at the moment. It would be a great satisfaction to qualify for the World Cup.”

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura, who came under fire for the Azzurri’s results in the qualifier playoff and the group stages, said his team would try to qualify for the World Cup in Russia by “playing football” after their ill-tempered play-off first leg against Sweden.

Ventura’s tactics and team selection have been the subject of heavy criticism after he dropped his preferred 4-2-4 formation for a 3-5-2 in Friday’s match.

While his side also complained of rough play by Sweden in the first leg — including a challenge which left defender Leonardo Bonucci with a broken nose — Sweden were also said to be unhappy at their rivals’ alleged gamesmanship.

Bonucci will be forced to wear a face mask in the second leg.

“We are Italy and, if we qualify, I would like to be able to say that we did it by playing football,” Ventura said. “I don’t know what sort of game it will be but I hope it will be played in the correct spirit.”