Football: Northern Ireland blocks Italy’s 2022 World Cup route

For Italy, Qatar is still a long way off. Big absent from the World Cup-2018, the European champions missed, Monday, November 15 in Northern Ireland (0-0), the direct ticket for the next World Cup, stolen by Switzerland, and will have to play again. uncertain dams.

” What a desappointment ! “, sighed the Gazzetta dello Sport and all the Italian media, as soon as the final whistle blows: the final distant duel was won by Switzerland, brilliant against Bulgaria (4-0), while a dull Italy was unable to force the north lock -Irish. Switzerland finished in the lead with two points ahead of the Azzurri.

Belfast, where Italy had already spun a World Cup qualification in 1958 by losing in a decisive qualifying match (1-2), will again have been a land of disillusion for the Nazionale.


Roberto Mancini’s team have indeed lost the speed and enthusiasm that took them to the roof of Europe five months ago. And despite the monopoly of the ball (nearly 70% of possession), it will have come up against the compact Northern Irish defense, undefeated at home during qualifying.

By March, the date of the dams, Italy will have the time to recover but also to tremble by thinking back to the trauma of November 2017: this dam lost against Sweden (0-1, 0-0), depriving it World Cup for the first time in sixty years, an apocalypse for a generation of tifosi. Sweden, which also finished second in its group, is also one of the opponents that Italy could find on its way, with other possible big customers (Portugal, Poland, Russia …).

By bringing back serenity, play and a title, Roberto Mancini seemed to have relegated these ghosts to oblivion. But they suddenly caught up with Italy in November, with two draws against Switzerland (1-1) and then in Northern Ireland.

Donnarumma avoids the heist

As expected, Italy confiscated the entry ball, sweeping the field to try to find some spaces between eleven Northern Irish players totally withdrawn in their half of the field. The attempts of the Squadra Azzurra often lacked impact to be able to worry the North Irish goalkeeper, serene in front of Giovanni Di Lorenzo (8e), Nicolo Barella (18e), Lorenzo Insigne (28e, 37e) and Federico Chiesa (32e). There was often a little too much haste in the choices of the Azzurri, whose usual blasters – Chiesa, Barella, Berardi – did not manage to extricate themselves from the trap.

Italy even came close to the correctional in the second half, Gianluigi Donnarumma leaving a decisive stop in front of George Saville (51e), just after Switzerland took the lead in opening the scoring against Bulgaria. Leonardo Bonucci also avoided the humiliation of a loss late in the game by saving a hot ball in front of his line.

Faced with the desperate sterility of his team (Chiesa next door, 63e), Mancini played it all for the sake of pitching Andrea Belotti, Federico Bernardeschi and Manuel Locatelli, but without changing the meaning of a rough game.

The dams that all Italy feared now await the European champions: this time it will finally be necessary to win, which the Azzurri have done only twice in seven games since their European coronation at Wembley. The World? “I’m totally confident, and maybe we’ll even win it …”, however, assures the incorrigible optimist Mancini.

The World with AFP

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