Mancini’s playoff roulette for Italy and the 2022 World Cup


He did whatever could have gone wrong. Murphy’s rule, not a Northern Irish full-back, has completely affected Roberto Mancini’s involuntary national team, making it to the Russian roulette of the playoffs.

In March, Italy will have to go through that funnel to earn a pass in Qatar 2022, the first world championships scheduled for a European winter. But in the meantime, the Azurri team is experiencing a winter of its own, created by a loss of identity and techno-tactical vulnerabilities.

The heat of European conquest already seems to belong to another era and players who had earned respect and admiration at the international level now make the sensational journey.

And as always, the truth is half-baked: They weren’t a phenomenon last summer, they’re not crazy anymore. He is the only Italian football player, the bearer of an ancient national football that no cultural or strategic revolution will ever be able to put an end to.

The flaw that becomes a virtue during the final stages of international competitions and turns a group of good players into an elite patrol who is able to face any challenge by relying on the temperament of the group rather than technical qualities; But that then becomes a vice again because that’s when you find yourself dealing with challenges with less dramatic competitive temperatures, such as “ordinary” qualifying races in the final stages.

There was no Cultural Revolution against this bipolarism of national football character.

Nothing “trueism” could do was claimed to be the Protestant Reformation equivalent for national football. Nothing “lipism” could do, tried to mix the best of Italian tradition with innovations that had been poorly metabolized by Sacism.

And finally we learn that there was nothing the left-hander could do, which in recent years had also refreshed the image of national football, a distinctly “active” style of play (ouch, the new football. language), able to gather consensus even among observers traditionally hostile to Italian football, such as the Spaniards. Nothing to do, because at the end of every world or European fair the Italian national team returns to the frayed and flooded entity that vaults its legacy of success and prestige.

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Playoffs, a risky formula


This is not the first time the Italian national team has had to go through the playoffs to reach the final stage of the World Cup. History has two precedents, one positive and one negative. Going to France in 1998 was required to go through a double play-off against the Russian national team, which ended in a 1–1 draw and a 1–0 home win.

The second instance is fresh in memory and a source of immense concern: Russia’s 2018 elimination at the hands of Sweden, a 1-0 home winner and able to put up a 0-0 return match at Meeza in Milan.

And yet, the precedents said, this third playoff has a humiliating aspect to which the Italian national team is compelled. It is such that in two historical cases the Blue team finished second in the elimination round before the two national teams belonged to the European football elite.

In 1997 it was England that snatched first place in the group from the national team coached by Cesare Maldini and was a team of equal or less equal value to Italy. In 2017, first place in the group went to Spain, a team clearly better than him (much worse) coached by Gian Piero Ventura. not this time.

Switzerland was a good team to snatch first place in the group from the national team coached by Roberto Mancini, but at second level and clearly inferior to Italy as shown by the double clash.

Above all, it is that the national team of Roberto Mancini did not manage to win one of the most economical groups which could be a lot. Not being able to beat the Bulgarians (who took 4 from the Swiss on Monday evening) or the keen Northern Irish is a third-level international, like a missing penalty is a mistake rather than a mitigating factor.

And of course no one will ever take away from the coach the qualities of bringing home a beautiful and worthy European, but at the same time we have to ask him for such a sensational inclusion in the transition from summer to autumn.

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But what is most worrying is the new playoff formula. Which is unknown and only offers 3 seats. To be clear, looking at Russia 2018, there were 8 teams to take 4 places and the playoffs were a comparison between two teams in home and away matches. This time we are talking about one place less and 4 more teams.

In fact, 12 national teams will play for the passes, which are divided into 3 groups of 4 teams. Only 3 group winners go to the World Cup. Dry matches in the semifinals and finals, with the first being played by the seeded national teams at home and the second which will see the field designated by the drawing. All runners-up in the elimination round take part, with the best two not qualifying for the last four of the UEFA Nations League.

The Azzurri national team will be one of the 6 seeded, but the advantages end there as it means there must be at least one other seed in the group. And the names of the national teams, starting with Portugal, who will have to go through that hurdle, allow us to be concerned. The picture to be completed after the matches on Tuesday evening includes the following names in addition to the Portuguese: Scotland, Russia, Sweden, Poland, Wales, North Macedonia, Austria, the Czech Republic, one between Finland and Ukraine and one Turkey in the middle, Norway and Holland.

And of course, perhaps the climate of great challenge could rekindle the temperamental part of the Italian bipolar. But in the meantime, no one thought they would have to wait for the draw in Zurich, where 3 groups would be drawn on 26 November at 5 pm. Many national teams get there with the spirit of someone who has already achieved a great goal. The Blues reach there with a setback. And with nightmares of consecutive second eliminations.

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irreparable damage


Yes, the risk of entering a negative loop. That the second absence to the last leg would become a reality and would require a certain downsizing for Italian football. Because an eradication, in addition, can occur even after 60 years of continuous presence. But two in a row are from the third-tier national team.

In addition, a further lack of attendance would also be disastrous at an economic level. It’s hard to guess at the moment, but some examples (both positive and negative) might help.

It is counted after Russia failed to qualify for 2018(source Il sol 24 ore) That caused a loss of 100 million euros to the Italian football system. Reliable figures from 4 years ago, to which a negative multiplier effect derived from the second non-qualification must be added. Because one elimination can be one exceptional event, but two cannot be consecutive. The loss of reputation would be devastating. Can we envisage doubling of those 100 million? It doesn’t seem exaggerated.

And since we are talking about reputation, we cannot fail to see the possible negative effects on the brand of the Italian national team. Due to the beneficial effects of the victory on Europeans, in recent times, close to 100 million euros were left.

But now that we risk a second consecutive worldwide absence? There is something to keep your fingers crossed, especially if you also consider the effects it could have for the entire national economic system.

In the days of the European conquest, it was calculated by Brand Finance that the Italian economy would benefit from 4 billion euros of GDP. And conversely, what are the consequences of a failure to ship Qatar 2022? Suffice it to say that Azurri “does whatever it takes” to be there. After turning off the straight path, I will go through the winding path. And this is already a fact.

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