Italy World Cup Qualifiers, 5 keys to get ready for the March playoffs

Italy World Cup Qualifiers, 5 keys to get ready for the March playoffs
Italy World Cup Qualifiers, 5 keys to get ready for the March playoffs

The two draws with Switzerland and Northern Ireland still burn a lot: the qualification of Roberto Mancini’s Italy to the World Cup in Qatar is hanging by a thread, or the dreaded playoff in March. In 4 months, the Azzurri will take to the field as a seeded semi-final and, in case of victory, everything will be played in the final. An inside-out that we would have liked to avoid given the outcome of the double confrontation with Sweden in 2017 which excluded us from the World Cup in Russia. Comparing the disappointing qualifying path in Qatar 2022 with that of the triumphal victory of the last European Championships, which culminated in the penalties at Wembley against England, we tried to isolate 5 keys to get ready for the playoffs.

Recover the injured

It is useless to hide: the 4 points lost by the Azzurri in the last week are also the children of one non-performing physical condition of many players that, thanks to the distortion of the calendars due to Covid, between the club and the national team are suffering the tour de force of the last year and a half. In addition, the many injuries that have influenced Mancini’s choices in recent outings must be considered. Above all Immobile, Verratti and Chiellini, but it is also worth mentioning the absences of Pellegrini, Pessina, Zaniolo, Toloi, Bastoni, Calabria, Biraghi. And last but not least Spinazzola, the man in more than Euro 2020 struggling with convalescence after the Achilles tendon operation. Recovering, if not all, at least some of them is a must to fuel the hopes of qualification.

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Ciro Immobile and Roberto Mancini

Credit Foto Getty Images

Finding the reference point up front

If we exclude for a moment the 5-0 trimmed to Lithuania (bottom of our group), the last 4 games of the Azzurri have highlighted a serious problem in attack: only 2 goals scored against Bulgaria, Northern Ireland and in the double match against Switzerland, scored by Di Lorenzo and Chiesa. A faithful photograph of the negative moment that the national team is going through. The coach tried to alternate the trident with a weight tip and the one with a false nueve with poor results. The 9 holder of Italy is Ciro Immobile (who is also the most prolific blue striker in activity), but the Lazio striker is fasting from the European Championships and we are sure that Mancini will evaluate alternatives for the March appointment, fishing among those who will be in better shape. In the absence of the so-called “full-time striker” (who, on the other hand, have several playoff contenders such as Poland, Sweden and Portugal), the race of Belotti, Kean, Scamacca and Raspadori (already called up by Mancio) reopens, but not only. On social media the ideas Petagna, Destro, Caputo and there are also those who have mentioned Mario Balotelli now at Adana Demirspor in the Turkish league and the young talent of Pisa, Lorenzo Lucca. Anything is possible, but unfortunately the Marche coach and his staff will not have official matches available to make new “castings”. The “tip” question remains a complicated puzzle. Also for this reason it will be essential to find Insigne and Chiesa in top form on the outside. It is not obvious given that March will be the highlight between the Scudetto sprint and the cups.

  • The most prolific attacked Azzurri in activity
Player Goal Attendance
Immobile 15 54
Balotelli 14 36
Belotti 12 41
Badge 10 53
Pelle 9 20

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Finding the lost midfield

Good times when we had a midfield envied by all of Europe. The Jorginho of this autumn (penalties aside) is the bad copy of the metronome all technical and fantasy for which so many invoke the Golden Ball. Barella is out of condition. Verratti is injured. Locatelli no longer affects the same as at Euro 2020. Just to name the most illustrious cases. In the latest releases, neither Tonali nor Cristante managed to compensate for the physical-technical gap. We hope that the Christmas break can bring new energy and ideas.

Stretcher in action during Northern Ireland-Italy – Qatar 2022 World Cup Qualifiers

Credit Foto Getty Images

Remember Wembley, but also the whistles of San Siro …

Since 1934 this is only the third time in which Italy is in the playoffs after Italy-Russia in 1997 (England first qualified in the groups) and Italy-Sweden in 2017 (behind Spain). To change, however, this year is the format of the play-offs with two straight matches with different opponents to access the World Cup. The defeat with the Scandinavians (with the whistles of San Siro addressed to players and Gian Piero Ventura on the return) have taught us that playing the restart and with fear will get us nowhere. We are able to impose our game with any opponent, we just have to regain the awareness (and even a little carefree) of this summer.

Giampiero Ventura

Credit Foto Getty Images

The public factor

As seeded, Italy will have the advantage of playing the semi-final between friendly walls, while for the finals it will be the draw to determine home and away. The public factor, recalled several times by Mancini and Bonucci in the latest press conference, can make the difference, even more so in the dry race. Hoping that in March the epidemiological situation will allow a packed and festive stage, whatever it is.

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