Rome, Mar 25 (EFE).- Italy’s stunning 1-0 defeat at home to North Macedonia in the Fifa World Cup qualification playoff semi final on Thursday night has sent shockwaves through the football-mad nation, which only 9 months ago was celebrating becoming European champions.
Despite having a huge 32 shots to North Macedonia’s four, Italy were unable to convert any of their chances and were punished when Aleksandar Trajkovski fired in from distance in the 92nd minute to send the visiting team wild as the Italians slumped to their knees in disbelief.
“We are destroyed and crushed, a great void will remain within us,” veteran defensive stalwart Giorgio Chiellini said afterwards, while midfielder Marco Veratti described the evening’s events in Palermo as a “nightmare”.
The last minute defeat consigns Italy – a country that has won the World Cup four times, as many as any other nation apart from Brazil – to the humiliation of missing out on the tournament for the second time in a row.
Prior to 2018, Italy had not missed a World Cup tournament in 60 years.
“The heroes of Wembley will stay at home for the World Cup. Second time in a row for Italy,” said the Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday, as Italy began what is sure to be a long period of soul-searching.
The Italian press also honed in on Roberto Mancini, who unexpectedly led the team to glory against England in Euro 2020 but whose future at the helm of the national team now hangs in the balance.
“It’s hard to say something right now – I don’t know what to say,” Mancini said. “Last summer was the most beautiful joy, now comes the greatest disappointment.” EFE