From the Wembley sky to the Belfast disaster. In the same city where it lost the 1958 World Cup, Italy lives another black page in its history. The joy of July seems a distant memory: the European champion, to qualify for the Qatar event, will have to go through the play-off, the same nightmare that led to the apocalypse of 2017. Switzerland, as expected, thrashed Bulgaria ( 4-0), while the Nazionale failed to score a goal against Northern Ireland. Considering what we have seen, with a single victory in the last five games, it was a very fair outcome, beyond the two penalties missed by Jorginho.
Mancini had asked his boys to play without stress, but it was clear from the start that they ignored him. La Azzurra kept the ball during the first half, but only got to scare Peacock-Farrell in the 9th minute, when Di Lorenzo, receiving a great long pass from Jorginho, wasted heads-up with the rival goalkeeper.
Those of Baraclough, who in these classifications never lost or conceded goals at home, were confirmed as an orderly team, capable of closing perfectly and without leaving any gap.
The Italian coach had decided to start without a center forward, leaving Belotti and Scamacca on the bench and apostando por Berardi, Insigne y Chiesa. An idea that never convinced and that continued not to work also in the resumption, when the Azzurri tried to increase the pace.
After a save by Donnarumma, who postponed the disaster against Saville, Italy had more chances and Chiesa was the one who came closer to 0-1, with a thread from the heart of the area that brushed the post. Meanwhile, bad news began to arrive from Switzerland. One goal, then another, the third annulled and the good one, the fourth … The Swiss scored and Italy shrank more and more frightened, until it disappeared. Mancini paid for the absences (many) and the lack of a reliable center forward, although he waited too long, perhaps, to use those he had on the bench. “We will go to the World Cup and we may win it,” said the coach after the game. Italy, for the moment, only has its optimism left. Now he has to suffer until March.
Cristante (45 ‘, Sandro Tonali), Belotti (63 ‘, Stretcher), Bernardeschi (67 ‘, Badge), Manuel Locatelli (67′, Jorginho ), Conor Washington (71′, Gavin Whyte), Corry Evans (71′, Saville), Gianluca Scamacca (79′, Emerson)
Sandro Tonali (8 ‘, Yellow) Magennis (56 ‘, Yellow) Bailey Peacock-Farrell (82 ‘, Yellow