It happened to him in 2017 and it happens again now. Italy will play a play-off again to try to qualify for a World Cup. And he could be left out of the big football event for the second championship in a row after missing the 2018 Russia tournament, a disaster. Switzerland beat Bulgaria (4-0), dismounted the reigning European champion from the first place, which did not go beyond the draw in the fiefdom of Northern Ireland (0-0), and will not miss the appointment, as happened in the last four.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jamal Lewis, Tom Flanagan, Dallas, Evans, Cathcart, Saville (Corry Evans, min. 71), Alistair McCann, S. Davis, Magennis y Gavin Whyte
Gianluigi Donnarumma, Di Lorenzo, Emerson (Gianluca Scamacca, min.79), Acerbi, Bonucci, Barella (Belotti, min.63), Sandro Tonali (Cristante, min.45), Jorginho (Manuel Locatelli, min.67), Insigne (Bernardeschi, min. 67), Berardi y Federico Chiesa
Yellow cards Sandro Tonali (min.8), Magennis (min.56), Bailey Peacock-Farrell (min.82) and Gianluigi Donnarumma (min.93)
Italy and Switzerland glanced at each other, from a distance, for 45 minutes, but after the break the masks fell off. Okafor scored for the Helvetians, who were playing Bulgaria in Bern, around the same time that Donnarumma thwarted a clear chance to score for the Northern Irishmen. The Italians seemed perplexed, as if paralyzed by responsibility and an inability that they had already shown in the first half, in which they barely tickled a leathery rival. No one managed to score a goal for Northern Ireland in Belfast during this qualifying process. And every news that came from Switzerland was a dagger for the team that Roberto Mancini coaches. For example, the second goal by Vargas.
With a quarter of an hour from the end, Switzerland made their third target, which forced the Italians to achieve two goals to save the difference of so many in their favor (they reached this last round tied on points) and be in Qatar. Chiesa tried, who did not shine as usual. Emerson sought the goal from afar. Northern Ireland hardly suffered. Italy had casualties: Chiellini, Verratti, Pellegrini, Zaniolo or Bastoni. But it has no excuse. He had qualification in hand, he let it pass and now, like Portugal, he has gotten into another global mess.
England needed to score a point to complete the pass. And he couldn’t have a weaker rival. In 31 years of history, San Marino has only won one game, against Liechtenstein in 2004. It is the last in the FIFA rankings, where it occupies 210th place. Its streak of games without winning already reaches 116. In the baggage of visits From England to the microstate there are moments as bizarre as a goal conceded eight seconds into a qualifying match for the 1994 World Cup. But this time everything was down the expected lane (0-10). By a quarter of an hour England had already celebrated two goals, before the Harry Kane festival began, scoring four goals in a quarter of an hour. At halftime England won 0-6.
A square at stake
Poland will play the repechage. He did not expect miracles in San Marino and presented a lineup full of substitutes that succumbed (1-2) to Hungary in Warsaw. It was not a good decision because it puts him at serious risk of not being seeded in the first of the two playoffs scheduled for a single game and having to play in the opposite field. Scotland was more alive to save nothing against classified Denmark, win (2-0) and secure that advantage of playing at home.
The classification in the European groups is completed this Tuesday. There is still a direct ticket to be clarified, which the Netherlands had in their pocket 10 minutes from the end of their match in Montenegro last Saturday. In this favorable scenario, the team prepared by Louis Van Gaal conceded two goals that lead to a close end and a direct duel in Amsterdam against Norway in which it is worth a draw to reach the goal, but in which a defeat coupled with a Turkey’s triumph in Montenegrin field would even leave them out of the play-off. The Netherlands have two points more than Turkey and Norway, who do not have the injured Haaland, before the last day.
The night is completed with a decaffeinated duel between Belgium and Wales in Brussels, little more than a formality because the hosts will go to the World Cup and the visitors to the play-offs. Roberto Martínez has released, among others, the Madridistas Courtois and Hazard. Carrasco and De Bruyne remain in the team. It does not seem clear that Gareth Bale is going to line up with Wales, after playing half against Belarus. The coach, Robert Page, has already warned that he will not start. His team will secure second place in the group with a draw, ahead of the Czech Republic, but either of the two will access the play-off even being third thanks to their performance in the Nations League, via which they will also play the play-offs Austria.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.