- A month ago, when Holland failed to make it to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, there was none of the shocked despair that hangs over Italy’s non-qualification following its defeat to Sweden in the two-legged play-off. Football in the Netherlands is facing its worst crisis and its fans have perhaps become used to under-performance. Since 1982, the team has failed to make it to the quadrennial extravaganza on four different occasions.
- Dutch footballers were always expected to thrill but not necessarily to win. Even the legendary Johan Cruyff didn’t bag football’s most coveted prize. But Italy is different. The Azzurri have always found a way, regardless of the circumstances. Italy went into the 2006 World Cup with a match-fixing scandal raging back home; it ended up lifting the trophy. Another scandal erupted ahead of the 2012 European Championship, but Italy emerged a worthy runner-up to Spain. Four years later, Italy went in with arguably its weakest squad ever but still outwitted reigning champion Spain and lost to Germany in the quarter-finals only on penalties. This is what makes the four-time champion missing out on the World Cup, for the first time since 1958, astounding. It is true that the qualification process left very little margin for error, with only the group topper earning a direct entry. Clubbed alongside Spain, Italy was always expected to come second and be in the playoff. Once there, it was unlucky to draw Sweden, the toughest of opponents. But even so, its performances have been truly worrying.
- Italian football has been stagnant for quite a while. In recent times the national team has even registered draws against novices such as Haiti and Luxembourg. There have been no credible replacements in sight for the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and Alessandro Nesta. Only manager Antonio Conte’s brilliance saved the country at the 2016 Euros. There is such a dearth of emerging talent that in the first leg against Sweden, seven of Italy’s starting 11 were older than 30. Supporters even sought comfort in the team’s unblemished record at the iconic San Siro stadium in Milan, causing Pirlo to remark, “I’ve never seen a goal scored from the stands.” There is much to be blamed on current manager Giampiero Ventura. He repeatedly ignored players who were adept and schooled in modern-day tactical methods. Midfielder Jorginho, who has been excellent for Napoli, was only handed his debut against Sweden while forward Lorenzo Insigne, the most creative of the lot, was an unused substitute because the formation that Ventura used didn’t suit his best player. But history suggests Italy isn’t alone. Both Germany and France underwent similar turbulence before emerging stronger with a complete overhaul of their footballing structures. What Italy needs is similar soul-searching.
Despair: the complete loss or absence of hope.
Example: Driven to despair , he throws himself under a train
Synonyms: hopelessness, disheartenment, discouragement, desperation
Perhaps: used to express uncertainty or possibility.
Example: Perhaps I should have been frank with him
Synonyms: maybe, for all one knows, it could be, it may be, it’s possible
Quadrennial: recurring every four years.
Example: Leap years are quadrennial , like the Olympics or the World Cup
Extravaganza: an elaborate and spectacular entertainment or production.
Example: An extravaganza of dance in many forms
Synonyms: spectacular, display, spectacle, show, pageant, gala, blowout
Covet: yearn to possess or have something.
Example: The president-elect covets time for exercise and fishing
Synonyms: desire, yearn for, crave, have one’s heart set on, want, wish for
Circumstance: a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action.
Example: We wanted to marry but circumstances didn’t permit
Synonyms: situation, conditions, state of affairs, position, events, turn of events
Outwit: deceive or defeat by greater ingenuity.
Example: Ray had outwitted many an opponent
Synonyms: outsmart, outmaneuver, outplay, steal a march on, trick, gull
Astound: surprisingly impressive or notable.
Example: The summit offers astounding views
Synonyms: amazing, astonishing, staggering, surprising, breathtaking
Stagnant: having no current or flow and often having an unpleasant smell as a consequence.
Example: A stagnant ditch
Synonyms: still, motionless, static, stationary, standing, dead, slack, foul
Comfort: the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress.
Example: A few words of comfort
Synonyms: consolation, solace, condolence, sympathy, commiseration
Unblemished: not damaged or marked in any way.
Example: Furthermore, even a minor charge can damage somebody with an unblemished reputation.
Synonyms: impeccable, flawless, faultless, perfect, pure, virgin, clean
Underwent: experience or be subjected to something, typically something unpleasant, painful, or arduous.
Example: The baby underwent a life-saving brain operation
Synonyms: go through, experience, undertake, face, submit to
Turbulence: violent or unsteady movement of air or water, or of some other fluid.
Example: The plane shuddered as it entered some turbulence