The Slow Death of Italian Football


The Slow Death of Italian Football

Illustration: Sushant Ahire


ictures tell stories, and the one with Gigi Buffon crying in the post-match interview is a heartbreaking one. As fate would have it, it was a deflected goal that the Italian goalkeeper could do nothing about, which separated the two teams over 180 minutes of football. Italy created chances, but Buffon’s opposite number Robin Olsen had an outstanding game in the Swedish goal, while a couple of penalty shouts could have gone either way. The San Siro miracle that everyone was waiting for wasn’t to be, as Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

While the result on the night might be a surprising one, there is nothing shocking about Italy’s decline in the beautiful game. The writing has been on the wall for a while. The Azzurri, once feared giants of Europe, are no longer favourites to go far in tournaments. The 2006 World Cup win wasn’t predicted by many, as an ageing Italian squad beat the odds. After that night in Berlin, they have failed to go past the group stages in successive World Cups. Expectations have dropped, as even the 2016 Euro quarter-final finish by Conte’s men was seen as a successful campaign. The failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia is perhaps the cruel end to a predictable horror movie.