Italy’s hopes of reaching the 2022 World Cup are now solely reliant on the team’s ability to achieve victory in the European playoffs.
The Euro 2020 champions finished second in their qualifying group behind Switzerland following a 0-0 draw away at Northern Ireland on Monday evening.
Italy had to make do with the playoffs last time around and those who hail from the nation will sadly never forget how that turned out.
The Azzurri were beaten 1-0 by Sweden over two legs back in late 2017, which meant they missed out on reaching a World Cup for the first time since 1958.
It truly was a sobering time for the Italian national team and the defeat to the Scandinavian outfit signalled the end of an era.
Tigerish midfielder Daniele De Rossi – who lost his cool on the bench during the final stages of the second leg versus Sweden – retired from international football immediately after the match.
But despite the heartbreak of missing out on one final World Cup, the AS Roma legend went out on a high courtesy of the classiest of gestures.
De Rossi the gentleman
De Rossi boarded Sweden’s team bus, congratulated the players on a well-earned victory and even apologised for the fact that Italian fans in San Siro had booed the away side’s national anthem.
Sweden and Brentford defender Pontus Jansson said at the time, per Football Italia: “He (De Rossi) said well done and apologised for how some of the players behaved in Stockholm, and for how some of the fans booed our national anthem in the return leg.
“The whole atmosphere on the bus was like: ‘Wow, did that really happen?’. It was one of the nicest moments for a long time actually, what a damn gentleman.”
Sweden manager Janne Andersson, who’s still in charge in the present day, added: “That’s sport at its best – you can brawl with each other out on the pitch, it can be a ‘small war’, but afterwards you shake each others’ hands.”
What an absolute legend De Rossi is.
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The 38-year-old is currently an assistant coach for the Italian national team and was a key member of Roberto Mancini’s staff at Euro 2020.
De Rossi will certainly be a busy man in March, when the Azzurri begin their playoff campaign in search of World Cup qualification.
Good luck, Daniele.