Italy, four-time champions failed to qualify for the World Cup 2022 in Qatar. This was the second time in a row that they missed the tournament. So, what is next for the European Champions?
In the UEFA World Cup qualifying round, Italy had been put in Group C along with Northern Ireland, Switzerland, Lithuania, and Bulgaria. The pressure had been high for Roberto Mancini, the coach and the team as Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup that was held in Russia 4 years back.
Italy began with 3 consecutive wins against Bulgaria, Northern Ireland, and Lithuania before claiming a win against Lithuania at home. With just two games left, Italy seemed to be in pole position for securing qualification but drew the match with Switzerland leaving both teams on equal points before the last round.
Italy, 4 months after the success of Euro 2020, drew the match in Northern Ireland that meant Switzerland finished at the top in the qualifying group of the World Cup after a win over Bulgaria. This sent Mancini’s side to the playoffs. The Italian football team missed out on deciding playoff draw after their loss at home to North Macedonia due to the last-grasp strike of Aleksandar Trajkovski.
Thereafter, North Macedonia made their way to the playoff final where they were defeated by Portugal, the team that secured the World Cup spot.
As a result of the 2018 World Cup qualification round, Italy finished in second place in Group C. However, they failed they qualify for the final of the World Cup for the first time in six decades after they made a home draw with Sweden in 2018, who booked a place in Russia at the final with a win of 1-0 score.