Once again, Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup. The European Champions fell to a shocking 1-0 defeat by North Macedonia on Thursday evening.
The European champions will miss their second World Cup in a row after also failing to qualify for Russia 2018. Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini said his team-mates were “destroyed and crushed” after losing to North Macedonia and failing to reach the 2022 World Cup.
North Macedonia crushed the Azzurri’s hopes with an injury time winner from Aleksandar Trajkovski at the Palermo stadium. “A great void will remain within us,” said Juventus defender Chiellini.
“We didn’t concede anything tonight apart from the goal. We created plenty of chances, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to score. There is a great disappointment. From September to today we have made mistakes and we have paid for them.
“I am proud of a team that has given everything. It is clear that we are destroyed and crushed. We hope that this void will give us the push to start again.”
What next for Mancini and Italy?
Italy manager Roberto Mancini guided his team to European triumph when they beat England in the final of Euro 2020 last July.
However, Italy were far from consistent and finished runners-up to Switzerland in their World Cup qualifying group. Defeat in the play-off with North Macedonia now means the European champions will spend at least 12 years between appearances at the biggest tournament in the world.
“This summer I had my greatest joy and today is the biggest disappointment,” said Mancini. “It’s hard to speak.
“I’m really sorry for the players. It’s a team that has played very well and who won the Euros last summer by deserving it. I’m really sorry that they can’t go to the World Cup for the second time.
“That’s football. When you lose, you have to suffer and remain silent, there is nothing to do. It’s difficult to comment on a match where we shot perhaps 40 times on goal [32 times] without scoring, and suffered a goal in the 92nd minute. That’s how it is.
“The players have a great future, they are strong and have a future with the national team. It’s a difficult moment, and it will be in the next few days. It’s the law of football.”
Cannot seem to score
Italy was in total control of its World Cup qualifying group until after Euro 2020. Then they lost the finishing touch.
The Azzurri drew four of their final five matches, dropping below Switzerland for the only automatic qualifying position.
Last night, Italy had 32 shots on goal while the visitors had only four. North Macedonia’s success means they advance to the playoff final against Portugal on Tuesday.
Italy’s inability to score had concerned Mancini, leading to him calling up Mario Balotelli for a three-day training camp in January. However, Balotelli was left out of the World Cup playoffs.