When Italy missed out on the last World Cup, it was a disaster for soccer in the country.
Missing another? There are really no words to accurately describe it.
“NOOOOOOOOO!” screamed the headline on Friday in the Tuttosport newspaper, with all nine of those Os stretching all the way across the front page.
The the four-time World Cup champion Italians, who won the European Championship only eight months ago, can really only blame themselves for missing out on this year’s World Cup in Qatar. The team failed to convert dozens of chances in the 1-0 semifinal playoff loss to North Macedonia on Thursday, with Aleksandar Trajkovski scoring in injury time to secure a shocking victory for a country ranked 67th in the world.
“Into hell,” Corriere dello Sport blared on its front page.
Gazzetta dello Sport called it “Out of this world.”
The loss in Palermo certainly came as a surprise to many, but it was also predictable for a team that has been in rapid decline since beating England on penalties to win the Euro 2020 title last July.
The team that set records for winning last year had won only two of its eight matches since, including losing its first match in more than three years to Spain in the Nations League.
“Our triumph at the Euros was fully deserved. But then some of the fortune we had in the tournament transformed into total and complete bad luck,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. “It almost feels like conceding a last-minute goal was fitting.
“I don’t know what to say. Maybe we shouldn’t even have got to this point.”