Football in Italy is a religion as much as, or more so, than in any other European country. The Azzurri have been the heart and soul of Italian sporting culture for nearly a century, and have been one of the most successful national teams in the history of the game.
With 4 World Cup triumphs, only second to Brazil, and a host of legendary players like Paolo Rossi, Dino Zoff, Paolo Maldini and Roberto Baggio among others, Italy are perennial giants of the game.
These are only a few reasons why the current state of the Italian national team is nothing short of a travesty. Their catastrophe of a match against Sweden is only worsened by the fact that no one in the country seems to have any idea how to fix the innumerable problems ailing the national side.
While the players themselves aren't entirely blameless, Italy's tactics have left most pundits baffled in what many regard as a fiasco of a qualifying campaign. It may be harsh to put the blame squarely on Italian manager Gian Piero Ventura, but here is a look at 5 reasons why the manager failed to take Italy to the World Cup, a first for the country in 60 years.
#5 Frosty relationship with senior players
One of Ventura's main strengths coming into the national team was his ability to nurture and bring out the best in his players, as evidenced by his time in Torino and Bari, where he launched the careers of Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Ranocchia. It is, therefore, extremely surprising that Ventura was unable to get along with Italy's living legends.
Giorgio Chiellini is Italy's leader alongside Gianluigi Buffon, and has easily been their best defender in the recent past. After Chiellini's red card in a 3-1 victory against Israel, Ventura remarked, "Usually Chiellini makes two mistakes every five years, so he used up all his bonuses."
While Chiellini may not have had the best of games that night, public ultimatums issued to senior players by the coach for a single bad performance does not bode well for the team.
Ventura also clashed with Daniele de Rossi during Italy's second leg horror show against Sweden. Italy's senior players have always formed the core of every successful campaign for the past few decades. Buffon and other senior players may have retired following the debacle, but an inability to build a rapport with them does not go in favour of an extended stay for Ventura.