If Italy are to reach the 2022 World Cup, they will have to do so by way of the European play-offs.

The Euro 2020 champions surrendered top spot in their qualifying group to Switzerland on Monday evening, as they could only muster a 0-0 draw versus Northern Ireland in their final match.

Italian fans will understandably be concerned about their nation partaking in the play-offs, as they’ll all likely have very bad memories from 2017.

In November of that year, the Azzurri failed to reach the 2018 World Cup after they lost a two-leg knockout tie versus Sweden.

The Scandinavian outfit won the first match on home soil 1-0, before travelling to Italy and earning a priceless 0-0 draw to book their place out in Russia.

Gian Piero Ventura became the first Italian manager since 1958 to fail to lead the football-loving country to a World Cup.


And some of his decisions during the second leg at San Siro were truly baffling.

Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne, who was and still is one of the best attack-minded players in the world, wasn’t even called upon from the bench.

In the dying embers of the match, Ventura even asked veteran defensive midfielder Daniele De Rossi to warm-up while Insigne just sat on the bench ignored.

That prompted a rather furious reaction from De Rossi, who was acutely aware that he was not the player Italy required when searching for a goal.

Video: De Rossi calls out Ventura vs Sweden

According to various outlets at the time, De Rossi told the former Italy manager while pointing towards Insigne: “Why the hell should I go on? We don’t need to draw here, we need to win!”

Fair play, Daniele.

After the game, De Rossi explained what had gone on during his altercation with Ventura on the bench.

“We have this tendency to warm up three at a time, then after five minutes we change and another three go,” the Italian icon told Rai Sport.

“I just said we were near the end and had to win, so send the strikers to warm up. I pointed to Insigne too.

“It wasn’t up to me whether it was a tactical issue. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. At the time I just thought perhaps it was better that Insigne come on instead.”

Ventura probably should have listened to the AS Roma legend, but instead of introducing Insigne, he simply watched on as his dull Italy side tried and failed to break down a stubborn Sweden defence.

As for De Rossi, he retired from international football immediately after the game, before hanging up his boots for good in 2020 following a brief spell at Boca Juniors.


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