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Italy 0 - Sweden 1: Initial reaction and random observations

It’s almost like Mr. Ventura is out of his depth managing at the international level.

Sweden v Italy - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: First Leg Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

It’s necessarily a good thing when the highlight of the night for your team is watching your captain sing the national anthem.

Yes, even if it’s Gigi Buffon.

But, the thing is, this is Giampiero Ventura’s Italy we’re talking about here. It’s Ventura’s Italy that is now 90 minutes away from not making a World Cup for the first time since 1958. (That’s 60 years, folks.) It’s Ventura’s Italy that, again, looked completely uninspired and lacked any kind of bite in its attack outside of a one brief 10-minute spell to open the second half.

And it’s Ventura’s Italy that will have about as much pressure as it has faced in months on its shoulders heading into the second leg at the San Siro on Monday. The pressure to get Buffon to one last World Cup. The pressure to not be that team that became the first Azzurri side to not advance to a World Cup for the first time in 60 years. The pressure to look even a fraction of what Italian teams have looked like in the past.

It’s okay, though.

What did Ventura choose to immediately address after the game? It wasn’t how his team played or what went wrong. It was blaming the ref. Blaming the referee always seems to work when things go wrong with your team.

Yeah, because it’s the ref’s fault that Italy’s attack looked totally flat or that the midfield was virtually nonexistent. It’s the ref’s fault that there’s no movement, no fluidity like there was under Antonio Conte at the Euros two summers ago.

That’s the problem. That’s the main problem.

What about this current version of the Italian national team has told you that they can rebound and flip a 1-0 aggregate scoreline that they’re on the wrong side of back into their favor? I don’t really know what we can say at this point.

Ventura has been Italy’s manager for the last 18 months or so. By now, you’d expect some kind of progress, some kind of identity for a team that does have both young and experienced talent in its ranks. Instead, they’ve simply been awful. They’re nothing close to where they were when Conte stepped aside and took over at Chelsea.

Now, with 90 minutes left to save their World Cup status, they’ve basically left us with the same kind of feeling as they have after pretty much every game they’ve played since Ventura took over.

And that’s not a good thing.

Actually, who am I kidding. Eder is here to save us all. Thank goodness for Eder.


  • To go from where this team was under Conte to where this team is now with Ventura in charge ... yikes. No matter if Italy is participating in the World Cup or not, there’s needs to be a new manager on the Azzurri’s sideline come the end of July.
  • I can’t help but think about how much Conte was able to achieve with so much less talent that is currently available to Ventura.
  • #FreeJorginho
  • Something tells me that pairing Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti might not be the best thing for Italy. I don’t know, but that’s just me.
  • I really hope that Buffon’s absence from what would be a record sixth World Cup won’t be decided by a deflected shot. That would just be so incredibly cruel.
  • As his team cried out for some kind of spark up front in the second half, it took quite a while for Ventura to bring in Napoli playmaker Lorenzo Insigne. The only thing was that Ventura had Insigne play ... as a midfielder? Yeah, as a midfielder.
  • A yellow card against Sweden means Marco Verratti won’t be playing at the San Siro in a couple of days. That’s about the only thing he did in the first leg.
  • I don’t know how many times in the post-game analysis — before I angrily changed the channel, of course — here in the United States about how Italy is experienced, Italy will recover, Italy will bounce back, etc. etc. etc. I wasn’t buying any of it. I’m about as convinced this Italy side can score two or three goals in a single game right now as I am with my chances of signing a contract with Juventus.
  • People grumbling about the use of the 3-5-2 ... sounds familiar. (Although, I’m with them this time. We can’t blame Max Allegri for this one.)
  • Seriously, Ventura gotta go.