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Italy Fails to Qualify for 2018 World Cup

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Italy v Sweden - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

If you’re anything like me, you don’t follow World Cup qualification terribly close because, well, because you simply assumed that Italy—four time world champion and stewards of the game Italy—-would qualify regardless of how closely you watched. Sure, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and Andrea Pirlo were long gone, but this is still Italy we’re talking about here; playoffs or not, it should have been a mere formality.

Well, here we are. Italy just lost to Sweden and crashed out of the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, proving once again that when you assume things you make an ass out of you and me.

And while being drawn into Group G with Spain was always a tough task—Italy managed only one point from their two fixtures against La Roja—it’s not really an excuse, certainly not one that, you know, the manager should make....in public.

But he did. Ventura’s pitiful excuses and even more pitiful tactics and selections will leave Italy on the outside looking in, making mere spectators out of the four-time champions. As if missing the World Cup for the first time since 1958 weren’t bad enough, he effectively ended the Azzurri careers of Daniele De Rossi and Gianluigi Buffon, the two men to whom this tournament, this shirt and this anthem arguably mean the most.

For De Rossi, the reaction was rage:

When asked to warmup in the second half, De Rossi reportedly reacted...umm...less than favorably, pleading Che cazzo entro io? Non dovemo pareggià, dovemo vince! What the hell are you putting me in? We don't need to equalise, we need to win!

If my Italian is correct, that hell in the English translation is putting it mildly.

But that’s De Rossi, we’ve come to expect that, he’s as furious and as passionate as they come, but this next one...this next one stings.

You don’t have to be a master linguist to capture the tenor of Buffon’s comments—you can hear him apologizing several times in that brief clip—but the weight of this moment will never resonate with anyone as much as it does with Buffon.

Watching Gigi belt out the words to Il Canto degli Italiani was always the best part of any World Cup, and now thanks to Ventura’s incompetence, we’ve been robbed of that experience.

The World Cup is still many months away, so the wound may very well heal or at least look less gangrenous, but is a World Cup without Italy really worth watching?

For my two cents, I’ll throw my support behind Argentina, at least they’re Italian by descent.