‘Destroyed and crushed’: Italy stunned after missing out on World Cup again | Italy

Italy were “destroyed and crushed” after missing out on the World Cup finals again after a 1-0 defeat at home by North Macedonia, the defender Giorgio Chiellini said.

Italy did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup – the first time they failed to reach the finals since 1958 – and will miss Qatar after Aleksandar Trajkovski’s last-gasp strike earned North Macedonia a famous win in Thursday’s playoff semi-final.

“I am proud of a team that has given everything,” said Chiellini, who replaced Gianluca Mancini in the 90th minute. “It is clear that we are destroyed and crushed, a great void will remain within us. There is a great disappointment. Even today we played a good game but we couldn’t score. From September to today we have made mistakes and we have paid for them.”

The midfielder Marco Verratti said North Macedonia’s goal in added time was a “real nightmare” for the European champions. “This group had a great chance at the World Cup,” he said. “We came from the unbeaten record, so it is difficult to accept what happened tonight. We all know that we have given everything. Now surely it is time to ask ourselves some questions.”

Despair for Marco Verratti after Italy’s defeat.
Despair for Marco Verratti after Italy’s defeat. Photograph: Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

For a country who have won the World Cup four times, Italy’s recent record is a national embarrassment. Since lifting the World Cup in 2006, they have not played a knockout game in the tournament and have won one group stage match.

Coming second to Switzerland in their qualifying group, consigning Italy to the playoffs, caused uproar at home. The reaction to the playoff loss, which comes eight months after Italy beat England at Wembley to win Euro 2020, will be vitriolic to say the least.

“It’s hard to say something right now – I don’t know what to say,” the coach, Roberto Mancini, said. “Last summer was the most beautiful joy, now comes the greatest disappointment. It is not easy to think of other things. I am very sorry for the boys: I love them much more tonight than in July.

“I am the coach, I am the first responsible, the boys are not. They have a great future, they are strong players for the future of the national team. We did not deserve this defeat.”

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