Mutiny on the bench symbolic of Italy’s swift decline under Ventura | Paolo Bandini

Azzurri manager’s stubborn refusal to utilise Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli from bench in goalless draw against Sweden condemned the four-time World Cup winners to miss out on finals for first time since 1958

Apocalypse, how? The Italian Football Federation’s president, Carlo Tavecchio, had defined the prospect of missing out on the 2018 World Cup as a disaster of biblical proportions. Now the worst has come to pass, the Azzurri failing to qualify for the first time in 60 years after losing their playoff with Sweden. All that remains for a proud football nation is to analyse where it went wrong.

A partial answer could be found on the pitch at San Siro. Italy dominated Sweden with more than 75% of possession, yet lacked the subtlety to unpick a packed defence: pumping endless crosses into a penalty area where their opponents held a clear height advantage. A lack of nuance in the final third has been an ongoing problem for a team that has scored just three times in its last six competitive fixtures.

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