The Italian national football team have failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958, and it’s clear changes need to be made.
In another recent blog post on this site, Vito Doria says Italy’s exit could be a blessing in disguise for the Azzurri – and I agree that it could be the wake-up call Italian football needs. After all, mere qualification should never be good enough. Here’s where Italy most needs to make changes.
Hire the right head coach
When the president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Carlo Tavecchio, announced Giampiero Ventura as the Azzurri’s new boss, he predicted they would “make history together”. And they did just that, but for all the wrong reasons.
Despite a clear need for goals against Sweden, the former-Torino coach stuck with a defensive 3-5-2 formation.
When defensive midfielder Daniele de Rossi’s was asked to warm up, his response was “why the hell should I go on? “We don’t need a draw here. We need to win”. This neatly summed up the lack of cohesion in the team.
Indeed, Ventura was a man without a plan and arguably the primary reason Italy failed to qualify. The fact that he waited to be sacked, rather than resign, shows how clueless he was and is.
Carlo Ancelotti is Ventura’s most likely successor. A proven winner, the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss has won trophies all over Europe, including three Champions League titles.
And whereas Ventura never played at the top level, Ancellotti also won two European Cups as a player with Milan. In other words, he knows what it takes to be the best because he’s been there at every level. Ancelotti looks almost certain to get the job; I wouldn’t advise wasting your bonus offers from Bookmaker advisor by betting against his appointment, that’s for sure.
Press the reset button
Much like the state of German football at the turn of the century, Italian football is at a crossroads. It can choose to go right and change things from the top down, or it can veer left and carry on with the same old faces and the same old methods.
The problem starts at the top. Thankfully, Tavecchio has now resigned as president, but the FIGC still needs a serious shake-up. The fact that anyone saw fit to hire a provincial manager like Ventura shows how clueless and antiquated the organisation has become.
Milan and Italy legend Paolo Maldini recently told La Repubblica, “I still see the same faces as I did when I [finished playing for Italy] 15 years ago”. This is surely not conducive to new ideas. Fresh faces need to come in to make positive changes.
Have trust in youth
The last three members of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning team (Daniele De Rossi, Gianluigi Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Barzagli) all retired following Italy’s premature exit from the World Cup. The FIGC made great steps by overhauling its youth policy last year, but now is the ideal time to follow through and bring younger talent into the squad.
Follow through with plans
Italian football has been in decline for many years. In response, Tavecchio promised to adopt a similar model to the one the Germans now has in place. Sure enough, he opened 30 national football centres across Italy, but this is just a fraction of the 200 promised.
As part of another pledge to focus on quality over quantity, the former president also said he would reduce Serie A from 20 to 18 teams, but this never happened.
If the FIGC is serious about initiating a national footballing renaissance, it needs to follow through with what are very sensible plans.