Italy fans will be disappointed with the Azzurri being eliminated in the World Cup play-offs by Sweden on Monday evening but failing to qualify for Russia 2018 could provide a potential silver lining.
Losing 1-0 on aggregate to the Swedes was embarrassing because it meant that the Italians will miss out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958 but it could provide a catalyst for change or even a revolution in calcio.
After this fiasco Italy truly look like fallen giants in world football so changes have to be made on and off the field.
It was quickly evident that Giampiero Ventura could not continue after such an insipid job as Azzurri coach. The FIGC hired him because he worked well with youngsters at Torino and he was considered to be a cheaper alternative to the other candidates.
The 69-year-old never won a major trophy or worked regularly with world-class players so how was he expected to control an international squad? Sadly he showed a lack of tactical flexibility, poor man management skills, and an incapability to select the right players.
Whoever replaces him as Italy coach needs to find a formation or formations that will play to the strengths of in-form players. Ventura refused to use the 4-3-3, which would have suited Napoli duo Jorginho and Lorenzo Insigne, but he often alternated between 3-5-2 and 4-2-4.
Ventura should not be the sole scapegoat and there needs to be an overhaul at the FIGC starting with President Carlo Tavecchio. The 74-year-old should not have given the former Torino coach the Italy job and he has been seen publically with controversial Lazio president Claudio Lotito. Should a club president be closely involved in Italian football’s governance issues?
Italian football needs new ideas and Tavecchio maintaining his role at the FIGC will not provide change for the better because he has done little to improve the state of the Italian game.
If there are too many veterans involved off the pitch, there have been too many on it as well. Experienced players should be able to nurture and guide the young players but some of them seemed to be in the Azzurri squad based on reputation.
Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, and Daniele De Rossi have announced their international retirements and perhaps they played for Italy longer than they should have because they are all over 30 and have shown signs of decline at club level.
There are other players such as Davide Astori and Marco Parolo who have been mediocre for the Italian national team and they should not be taken into consideration anymore.
There needs to be far greater commitment in promoting the next generation of Italian starlets, especially after Italy finished third at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in June.
Over time those prodigies should earn more playing time at club level and there are other promising talents such as Gianluigi Donnarumma, Federico Chiesa, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Daniele Rugani that deserve more time with the Azzurri.
In addition to overhauling the Italy squad, Italian football needs to change its mentality – this has been evident for some time – and little has changed in the best part of the last decade.
The Italian style is generally known for its conservative approach, cautiousness, gamesmanship, and emphasis on tactics. It is also frowned upon by people who don’t follow Italian football regularly because of diving, playacting, and rough challenges.
Italian coaches need to place less emphasis on game management and containment. The concept to doing enough to win and slowing down after gaining a decent lead is absurd in this day and age. Another ridiculous concept is to try in decisive games or against harder teams but Italian teams at club and international level must avoid trying to make things hard for themselves.
Producing technically gifted players is not an issue in Italy but giving them room to express their talent is a problem so tacticians need to be more proactive in their approach.
Coaches like Maurizio Sarri, Eusebio Di Francesco, Marco Giampaolo, and Gian Piero Gasperini know how to balance defensive solidarity with attacking flair and their teams barely resort to dirty tactics. Even in Serie B, coaches are placing a great emphasis on attacking philosophies so hopefully this can result in an ending for traditional Italian conservatism at all levels.
There have been calls on social media to have limits or bans on foreign players but those things look unlikely. Although the FIGC introduced the rule of teams having four players from their academy and another four from opposition clubs, perhaps another rule change or an alteration of that minimum requirement could encourage coaches to play more Italians.
Regardless of any rules or regulations, clubs like Atalanta, Torino, and Sassuolo in recent seasons have shown that you can give Italian youngsters a chance and exceed expectations as opposed to just avoiding relegation.
A World Cup without Italy will feel hollow for Azzurri fans but there could be an upside in all this. Such a fiasco should prompt people involved in Italian football to accept that the old methods and mentalities won’t bring back the glory days for calcio.