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Italy fails to qualify for 2018 World Cup after drawing with Sweden

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ITALY has missed out on qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 after being held to a 0-0 draw by Sweden at the San Siro in Milan.

After suffering a shock 1-0 loss in the first leg in Sweden, the men in blue couldn’t find the back of the net on Tuesday no matter how hard they tried. The scoreless draw meant Sweden won 1-0 on aggregate and the Azzurri will now be watching the 2018 World Cup from afar.

Before the match the prospect of Italy missing out on football’s showpiece event was described as the “apocalypse”, and that apocalypse has now arrived.

Italian ‘apocalypse’ is real

Italy will be watching the 2018 World Cup from home after it drew 0-0 with Sweden in their do-or-die World Cup qualifier on Tuesday morning.

Heading into the clash with a 1-0 deficit after suffering a shock loss to the Swedes in the first leg of the two-match tie, the Azzurri were unable to find a breakthrough at the San Siro in Milan and will now miss their first World Cup since 1958.

“I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football. We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes,” Italian goalkeeper and captain Ginaluigi Buffon said.

“There is certainly a future for Italian football, as we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet.

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“I leave a squad of talent that will have their say, including Gigio Donnarumma and Mattia Perin. I want to give a hug to Chiello, Barza, Leo and Lele, who I had almost 10 years alongside. I thank the lads who were with us and, although it wasn’t enough, I hope that we gave them something.
“In football you win as a group, you lose as a group, you divide the credit and the blame. The coach is part of this entire group.”

It’s a crushing blow for a country that has won football’s most prestigious tournament four times. Despite finishing with 75 per cent of the possession after 90 minutes and taking 23 shots to Sweden’s four, luck deserted the home side and the scoreless draw crushed Italian hearts.

Italy enjoyed its fair share of luck as Sweden was denied what looked like two clear-cut penalties for handballs, first by Matteo Darmian and then Andrea Barzagli. Italy had a penalty appeal of its own waved off by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz when Marco Parolo was tripped from behind by Ludwig
The Azzurri struggled to carve out clear chances against a solid Sweden side, and tested goalkeeper Robin Olsen only once. Of its 23 shots, only six were on target. El Shaarawy’s powerful shot at the death was the best of the opportunities but Olsen was up to the task and parried it away.

The Brazilian-born Jorginho was handed his competitive debut by Italian coach Gian Piero Ventura, and the midfielder impressed with some deft passing. He created Italy’s best chances with two throughballs for Ciro Immobile, who hit the netting from a tight angle from one. Immbobile beat Olsen with another but Andreas Granqvist got back for a decisive goal-line clearance.

Alessandro Florenzi was also back following a year out after twice tearing a knee ligament, and the midfielder forced Olsen into a neat save, while a cross of his was also deflected onto the crossbar in the second half. Meanwhile, the highly rated Lorenzo Insigne surprisingly didn’t get onto the pitch at all.

Sweden has been a giant killer in qualifying as it surged towards a World Cup berth. It had already knocked out 2010 finalist The Netherlands before taking care of Italy on Tuesday.

The last major competitions Italy missed were the 1984 and 1992 European Championships.

It would be easy to lay the blame squarely on Gian Piero Ventura. The Italy coach will naturally take the lion’s share of the responsibility but his side’s problems run much deeper, the rot starting long before he took charge.

After winning the World Cup in 2006 for a fourth time, Italy went out at the group stage of the next two editions. It has fared somewhat better at the European Championships, reaching the final in 2012 and going out in the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2016.

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Sports

Looking back on my Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace | Mo Farah

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I recently had the honour of being knighted by Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace. When I came to the UK from Somalia aged 8, not speaking any English, who would have thought that my running would eventually lead me here? This was another very special gold medal for me and I am so honoured to have received it. Here’s a little glimpse of how the day went for me.

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Sports

Somalia, Sudan pull out of CECAFA Cup in Kenya

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THE VANGUARD — Somalia and Sudan have pulled out of next month’s CECAFA Challenge Cup in Kenya, reducing the field to only 10 teams from the central, northern and southern African zones.

Organisers of the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) tournament said Somalia, which has been mired in internal conflict, was having difficulty getting a team together for the December 3-17 championships.

Three-time champions Sudan have asked to be left out of the competition because their national football league is still in progress. North African team Libya has been invited to take part for the first time as a guest team, alongside five-time Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA} champions, Zimbabwe. Libya have been drawn to play hosts Kenya in a tough Group A, alongside Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar.

Defending champions Uganda have been drawn in the relatively easier Group B against Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Kenya are hosting the CECAFA Challenge Cup as a consolation after losing the right to stage the 2018 African Nations Championships due to concerns around the uncertain political situation in the country.

The CECAFA organisers hope the two-week tournament — to be played in the towns of Kisumu, Kakamega and Nakuru — might help unite Kenya after a drawn-out and divisive presidential election period.

The draw for the December 3-17 event is: Group A: Kenya, Libya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zanzibar Group B: Uganda (holders), Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe.

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Somali News

Historic milestone for Somali football

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Football is helping to bring a level of happiness to the citizens of Somalia in a country that has long been ravaged by upheaval. Last Saturday marked a historic moment with the laying of a foundation stone for the Somali Football Federation’s (SFF) new premises, with the national association having operated in rented offices for over half a century.

Located on the Horn of Africa, Somalia has a long association with football dating all the way back to 1951, but never before has the governing body had premises to call its own.

A new home

The new headquarters is being built on a portion of land that was recently donated to the SFF by the Ministry for Youth and Sport, as announced by the Minister Hon Khadija Mohamed Diriye. The association has indicated their plan to apply for funding from FIFA’s Forward Development Programme for the new base which is expected to be completed next year.

“The construction of this new headquarters will end more than half a century that Somali Football Federation has been serving in rented offices,” said SFF president Abdiqani Said Arab.
“This will be the first building owned by the federation in its whole history. It is being built as the SFF is benefiting from the new development initiatives created by the president of FIFA, Mr. Gianni Infantino.

“The headquarters will be the home of the entire football family of Somalia. Having more space to work will help the development of football in the country.”

Fighting for growth

The creation of the SFF’s headquarters follows other recent development assistance which have also aided the local game.

Only last month, Somalia witnessed its first match played under floodlights for three decades following the redevelopment of the nation’s oldest stadium.

With the assistance of FIFA’s Win in Africa with Africa programme, Mogadishu’s Banadir Stadium is now an impressive all-weather facility and hosts the Somali Football League.

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