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.
Mo Farah aiming to challenge Kipchoge, Wanjiru in London Marathon
AFP — LONDON – British athletics great Mo Farah admitted Tuesday he faces an uphill battle to win Sunday’s London marathon with the likes of two-time winner Eliud Kipchoge in the field but says he will fight for a podium place.
The 35-year-old Somalia-born runner — who twice achieved the 5,000-10,000m Olympic double — said one bonus for his third attempt is that he no longer has to think about conserving energy for a track campaign.
Farah, who stopped at the halfway point in the 2013 race and finished eighth in 2014, retired from the track at the end of last season after just missing out on a third successive world championship 5km-10km double in London.
“It’s a great feeling not to have the same pressure as I do on the track,” Farah told a pre-race press conference.
“If the guys set off at world-record pace, I’ll go with them, why not? A win would be amazing for me. It’s going to be different but every race I go into I aim to fight for a podium place.”
Farah, whose decision to not train full-on for the 2014 London Marathon paid off as he went on to win European gold at 5km and 10km, said he had mapped out a strategy for the race.
“My aim is to stick to my own plan,” said Farah. “The team at the London Marathon have put together an amazing field with guys like Eliud Kipchoge and Daniel Wanjiru.
“I’m only ranked 27th, so I just have to stick to my plan and see what happens.”
Farah, now living in London after splitting from controversial US coach Alberto Salazar, said he had no regrets about switching to the road even though he cast an envious glance at the competitors in the distance events at the Commonwealth Games.
“I watched the Commonwealth Games and I wondered whether I could have done that double (5,000m and 10,000m),” he said. “Maybe. But as an athlete you have to set yourself new challenges. You have to enjoy what you do.”
Canadian Mohammed Ahmed wins silver medal in Commonwealth 5,000M
CANADIAN PRESS — GOLD COAST, Australia — Canadian Mohammed Ahmed earned silver Sunday in the 5,000 metres on the first day of track and field at the Commonwealth Games.
Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei won gold in 13 minutes 50.83 seconds, ahead of Ahmed in 13:52.78 and Kenya’s Edward Zakayo in 13:54.06.
“I’ve been at the cusp for many years, but I finally get to stand on the podium and hopefully (one day) I get to climb one more step,” said the 27-year-old Ahmed, who was fifth in the 5,000 and sixth in the 10,000 at the 2014 games in Glasgow.
Ahmed was sixth in the 5,000 and eighth in the 10,000 at last year’s world championships, both Canadian-best finishes. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he was fourth and 32nd, respectively, in the races.
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Ahmed spent the first 10 years of his life in Kenya before his family moved to St. Catharines, Ont.
Around 500 Somali youth participate in historic marathon
Somalia has hosted its first mini-marathon in three decades. The event is aimed at seeking international support for Somali youth; and was organised by the country’s ministry of sports. CGTN’s Abdulaziz Billow is in Mogadishu and filed this report.