Italy failed to win their last game of the qualifying round on Monday night and will have to go through the play-offs if they are to return to the World Cup as the goalless draw against Northern Ireland allowed Switzerland to move past them on the last day of the qualifiers.
Roberto Mancini’s European champions, who started the game topping group c on goal difference, knew they had to match the Swiss’ result against Bulgaria if they wanted to qualify directly for next year’s tournament in Qatar. But their uninspiring draw at Windsor Park and Switzerland’s 4-0 win in Lucerne saw Italy give up first place and the group’s sole guaranteed World Cup spot at the last. The outcome of the game means the Azzurris will be amongst the November 26th draw for March’s Play-offs, which they shockingly failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after a miserable aggregate defeat to Sweden.
“Right now it is what it is, we struggle to score goals, we always have control of the play… It’s a shame because the group should have been finished before this match,” Mancini told RAI.
The Italian coach is still pretty confident that his team will make it to Qatar come 2022 despite a series of underwhelming displays in qualifying since winning Euro 2020.