Mails: Italy’s failure highlights the influence of Conte

Date published: Tuesday 14th November 2017 2:00

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Premier League play-offs
There was a mail recently which argued that due to the strength of the Premier League at the top it was harder for our teams to compete in Europe. In short Germany, Spain, France, and Italy all have leagues dominated by 1 or 2 teams which means they can take it easy for league games and save their best form for the Champions League. A similar point was made when arguing that PL clubs can’t give youth a chance due to the pressure to finish in the top 4.

I’d suggest the best solution for these issues would be a Premier League playoff system to end the season. So after all 38 games the top 6 teams enter the playoffs, the top 2 bypass the first round of matches leaving 3rd vs 6th and 4th vs 5th in the first round. The winners of the first round are then drawn against the top 2 for the semis (these 4 teams then get UCL qualification) and the winners go to the final to win the Premier League trophy.

So the opportunity to win the league can now be obtained by reaching 6th. This will be about the bear minimum from City, Chelsea, United, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Arsenal but yet is actually achievable for Everton, Watford, Southampton, Newcastle etc. So the pressure is off the bigger teams meaning they can afford to give youth a chance and save their best for the Europe, smaller teams would actually have a shot at winning the league by concentrating their efforts into achieving 6th.

As a bonus we get 5 very juicy games at the end of the league season, between the top sides in the land with everything to play for. Sounds like a good idea to me
Dave, Manchester (fully expecting someone to point out why this idea is stupid)


European standards slipping
If nothing else, I think the results and performances in these UEFA World Cup playoffs proves that, below the top of the table qualifiers , there is a really lack of quality among European nations.

Teams are very well organised and can execute a game-plan very efficiently, but ask them to roam forward and score a goal and, with the exception of Croatia, no one appears capable of doing this.

I include Italy in this, whatever the reasons and the coach’s failings, they still didn’t have sufficient quality to break down a game but skillfully limited Swedish side.

This is compounded by the involvement of the two Irish teams. I have nothing against either country, but just looking at the make-up of the two sides, these are clearly teams that are greater than the sum of their parts and fair play to them. This is all essential to success in football, of course, but they are hardly inspiring, top level players who make people sit up and watch. Their inclusion in the play offs is an achievement in itself but also, unfortunately, a damning indictment of the lack of quality of the other nations in their groups.

I hope I am mistaken, and I will be as excited as ever come June next year, but these games seem merely a portent of the sort of standard, tactics and and entertainment levels we will be looking forward to on the world stage in Russia.
Rob (I’m not normally this negative on a Tuesday but might be something to do with the insipid sandwich I have just consumed), Leicester


The World Cup must contain these teams…
A rare miss from the ever lovely Peter G this morning. Italy have been p**s boring for over a decade, and I’ll not miss them this World Cup. Instead, here (because I am always right), is the correct list of teams which should always be at a world cup.

– Brazil. Obviously. Because they are always entertaining, either due to brilliant, skilful, football or hilariously getting hammered by Germany.

– USA. If only because it pleases me that a nation who mostly don’t even know that a world cup is happening do so much better than many nations which have football as the national sport and would gladly sacrifice significant land mass in exchange for one world cup trophy.

– Germany. Because anything else would just be really weird.

– One of the home nations who aren’t England. They seem to actually enjoy it.

– Japan. Japanese football is great. Japan is great.

– Two historically warring nations. Don’t mind which two. Partly because we can pretend that everything is okay for a little while, and that football can bridge divides and whatnot, but also because there’s a chance of a fight. Which no one likes to see, and there’s no place for that in football.

– Switzerland. Always have the best kit, and that attention to detail should be rewarded.

– Senegal. That opening game in 2002 gets you a lifetime pass to the World Cup. Congratulations, Senegal.

– Someone who has never qualified before. Preferably with difficult to pronounce names, who cheerfully get hammered in their opening matches before getting a plucky draw against us in the final group game, so angry pundits can say thing like “no disrespect to Bhutan, but we should be beating this lot easily – they’ve got an actual goat playing left-back, and 3 of their players were snowed in and never made the tournament”.

That’s the lot. Everyone else has to qualify, and I can take or leave them. FIFA – please note and implement asap.
Jeremy Aves


Conte made the difference
I am surprised that no one mentioned Antonio Conte’s role to a great detail so far. Granted, the news of Gianluigi Buffon missing out on his last World Cup really is tragedy-like. What a lovely player.

Anyway, the Italian squad that lost the two-legged tie against Sweden is almost similar to the squad that did quite well in the last European Championships. It is fair to say that they miss a manager that can instill belief like Conte.

Conte came up with an organised plan for Italy and utilise the players he has fully to get the best out of it. It is clear that Italy’s current manager Ventura is nowhere near that level. The players did not seem to believe they can be better than on the paper.

Shame that Italy will miss the World Cup.
Vincentius, Cambridge


Swap England for Italy?
Finding myself genuinely upset by last nights result and the ramifications it has, not just on 2018 but on several players careers. Congratulations to Sweden mind you, they deserved it and played an intelligent game over the two legs.

So my question is this;

Would you take Italy to Russia if it meant leaving England at home.

I would but I dislike the national team anyway. Be interested to see what the more patriotic people think.
Stu (Ibrahimovich must be buzzing) Wrexham


The Italian Hodgson
No country, even Italy, Brazil or Germany ‘deserve’ to be in the finals simply because they have done so often in the past. Italy have had teams that eventually done well but most often played dire football. Not even because Gigi won’t be there. Not as if he doesn’t have a winners medal.

But really wanted to talk about the parallels between Ventura and several past Rmgland managers- especially Hodgson. Similar record, similar (old school age and tactics) one European final, coached a mid table team and was too rigid and naive at the international level.

The only difference? Italy’s ‘embarrassment will be short lived while England’s against Iceland was far more viewed and will linger for a long time.
Paul McDevitt


Italy grief junkies
Time to address the bizarre outpouring of grief that came from Joghniec@m-Lately and Peter G due to Italy’s failure to qualify for the world cup. Assuming that neither is Italian, their connection to the Italian team seems stretched to say the least. Italy has been just another successful team in the past, and I cannot see why people who are not Italian feel so saddened. If anything Italy seem to be a negative, boring defensive team, especially given the amount of attacking talent they have previously had at their disposal. If England were in this situation then everyone (at least overseas) would be laughing at them, including me.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the mourning of Italy is the fact that Sweden’s quite remarkable upset to qualify has been mostly overlooked. A real shame, given the incredible team performance it took to knock out one of the worlds best footballing nations over two legs.

Lastly, Buffon crying. While on one hand his disappointment is completely understandable, crying seems like a massive overreaction, Chin up pal, you’ve been to 5 World Cups before and won just about every trophy available, you’re not entitled to go just because you’re Buffon.

Actually on the subject of entitled stars having a cry (Messi retiring then unretiring springs to mind), do they actually think about the consequences of them doing that will have on nations where football is not the main sport? Of course not. In New Zealand football has a reputation among rugby communities for being “gay” , “wimpy” and a “nerd sport”. So for once in New Zealand the focus of the weekend was on a football match, our home leg qualifier against Peru. It was an opportunity for the sport to gain a better reputation among mainstream New Zealand, with its full attention. How that failed. The Peruvians were divers, niggly and crybabies. Back to square one.

Because of this I believe that the expansion of football will never accelerate until diving is gone from all levels of the game, such is the damage to its credibility in places like New Zealand. Also professional footballers sacking up and acting like adults instead of entitled f*cking 2 year olds would go a long way too.


Missing Italy
I agree wholeheartedly with Greg Tric’s email this morning. I evidently wasn’t the only one keen for Italy to qualify as they add a sense of intrigue to a World Cup that few other nations can replicate. They are as likely to reach the final (2006), as they are to be eliminated at the group stage (2010,2014). Sweden, while a decent team, led by the supremely talented Forsberg, are a workmanlike team that would cause great surprise if they even got out of their group in Russia.

Back to my original point, and pure frustration with coach Ventura. I was in disbelief before the first leg to see Insigne on the bench but for Italy most naturally gifted attacker to not even play in 180 minutes of football is a travesty and an insult to a player who forms a third of Italian football’s most potent attack at Napoli. Belotti, El Sharaawy and Bernardeschi are undoubtedly fine players but Insigne was the obvious choice to come on when Italy were struggling to find a way through. Even Daniele de Rossi could see this, showing his frustration when told to warm up instead of Insigne. Ventura’s stubborn insistence of sticking with the 3-5-2 was infuriating especially when Sweden had everyone behind the ball. Barzagli was rendered useless with Sweden not attacking so why not take him off instead of Candreva?

It would have been nice to see a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, considering Juve, Roma, Napoli and Inter predominantly play this formation. Put Jorginho into a formation he plays week in week out if you plan to make him the axis, and then have Insigne and Candreva flanking Immobile.

Obviously hindsight is a wonderful thing but this Italy team is talented, and one that should have been able to beat Sweden over 2 legs.
Dan, Dublin (Hopefully not frustrated with Martin O’Neill in the morning, COYBIG)


…I’m a bit disappointed for Italy in some ways it’s a body blow for the world cup as if i’m not mistaken this will be only the third one they missed .

Realistically I believe they were part of the 2nd tier of contenders with England,Croatia,Portugal and Belgium

Overall I believe some of the main intrigues are all but done and we can soon start focusing on the draws I’m still sensing the potential for a group of death in this current format as we could see a situation where England Get Brazil,Iceland/Sweden and Nigeria/Japan for example due to the respective seedings.

Well on to December 1st I guess
Timi, Super Eagles fan


Join us in the 21st century
That first piece in Mediawatch today is right on the money. I’ve written in before about attitudes of the media towards gay footballers and this highlights the issue again.

Until we remove the shock value of “OMFG two footballers are holding hands” then we’re just never going to get past this are we?

I normally just ignore crap in the papers, in the papers, but this time, thankyou for highlighting it and therefore expanding on my previous point.
Fat Man Scouse

Football League turkeys won’t vote for Christmas
Sean Blinkhorn makes some great points in his mail about League 3. However there is a significant entry in the “against” column that was not picked up.

The reason most lower league teams will continue to vote against this is purely financial. 20 teams means 19 home games – 24 teams means 23 home games. 4 more home games means 4 more home gate receipts means more cash to make ends meet.

The answer to this is for the Premier League to share money more equally with the lower leagues, meaning that the clubs can afford to make decisions that improve the game without potentially threatening their survival as a going concern. You would think that the EFL Chairman Shaun Harvey might be the man to have that conversation, but he’s too busy pimping the Checkatrade Trophy and indirectly promoting the B-team concept.

Equally the PL clubs are currently far more bothered about the proposed split for the top 6 to get more cash and the other 14 to get less – I can’t see them caring at all if the 72 league clubs deign to approach the top table, empty bowl in hand, saying “Please sir, can I have some more?”

In summary, the points made are all valid, but the lower league turkeys won’t vote for Christmas and the Premier League Scrooge has not yet seen the ghost of Marley.
Terry Hall, Switzerland (other Dickensian references available on request)


Evans above
GFF: Good points, well made. Military personnel are always better qualified to offer a view on this subject in my opinion.

Also, to a particular bugbear of mine that the email tangentially set off – though obviously less important.

How bloody underrated is Roy Evans? We genuinely were the second best team in the country under his managership. Only Fergie away from a whole sack full of trophies *and* we played properly attractive football to boot.

I’ve always had a soft spot for him as the last of the Boot Room boys but he really was pretty good and seemed a really nice fella to boot. Put the club back together after that terribly divisive Souness reign too.

I genuinely never understood why no one else good was ever interested in him afterwards. I think he was simply undermined by the perception that Liverpool were supposed to be champions because they had been for so long. And because they weren’t, he was underachieving – which was cobblers.

We’d have killed for his league finishes for most of the last twenty years, that’s for damn sure.
James, Liverpool ( he should have kiboshed those damn Cup Final suits though )


Gambling in sport
I appreciate this is a topic that is routinely brought up but after my experience yesterday night I wanted to put my thoughts in.

After watching Sweden v Italy last night before catching the last game of the Grand Slam of Darts that night (the only thing on live..) Spy Sports Main Event flicked over to Sky Sports News through the night. I had this on for an hour in the background and I could count on one hand the number of non-gambling adverts that aired over this time. Worse yet, and this may be just a coincidence but I would suggest not, a piece would air about Ireland vs Denmark (COYBIG!) followed straight after by an advert from William Hill advertising prices. During the hour there were adverts from, 32Red (sponsors of the program), William Hill, Paddy Power, Kapooka (?!?) and of course SkyBet and probably a few that I’ve missed.

While the sheer saturation of the market is certainly a big issue, what is more concerning is that as mentioned, the channel itself seems to be operating in cahoots to let companies offer prices on related stories.

In a world where gambling addiction is a real and serious thing and betting, or as Ray puts it “having a bang on that” is promoted as integral to the experience as the match itself. Where does the line of business end and ethics begin? It seems that to be able to enjoy sport you also have to open yourself to this other world. While ok for some, that may be devastating for others.
James, AFC, London


Poppy power
Every year it’s talked about and every year certain tabloids make a massive fuss about lack of poppies being linked to terrorism or child abuse or whatever nonsense it is they are peddling. The tabloid nonsense reaches it’s ludicrous crescendo when football is involved so it spills over every year, without fail.

I think most people here, having those brain things between their ears, are pretty happy that anyone can choose to wear a poppy or not. I don’t care and wish people would stop making a fuss about it. I wear on every year because it’s a good cause and a lovely symbol but I’m not going to take exception to someone not wearing one, why would I?

The only thing I do take exception too is when people make a point of not wearing it, because the British have done some pretty horrible things to other countries over the years (and we have, clearly). The poppy is nothing to do with celebrating being English or giving thanks to a British victory in the world wars. It’s a symbol and way of remembering everyone who dies in those horrific wars be they English, Irish, German, Indian, American, Burmese, Australian… It’s important to remember so it never happens again. That’s it, that’s all it means.

So if you don’t want to wear one that’s fine. If you do, also fine. If you see someone not wearing one and take exception to it, then keep it to yourself! But don’t start using it as a reason to attack anyone, of any nationality, because that’s the opposite of what the Poppy represents.

Can’t we all just get along!?
Nathan PFC (Portsmouth that is, sympathy happily accepted!)


If we’re marking the beginning of the end of the international career of Wesley Sneijder, then let’s return to the original version of one of the finest bits of comic writing this site has ever produced, up there with Not the World Cup and the Neviller Diaries. I can’t find a date on this but it’s possibly 2014 (link that doesn’t work but does have the page address):

“Imagine a post-apocalyptic world, in which only one man survives, burrowing himself deep into the earth’s crust to avoid the blasts.

Finally plucking up the courage and physical strength to face his new world alone, the man ventures out from his underground lair to find a scorched and scarred landscape. Has anything survived?

Picking his way through the charred remains of trees, animals and human life, our hero sees a cockroach scuttling across a rock, as if even it is attempting to take in the view of this now decimated scene.

The man walks closer to the cockroach, subconsciously desperate to be close to perhaps the only other surviving life form. As he nears the insect he hears it whispering something in repetition. Getting closer still to try and decipher the cockroach’s recurring mantra, all suddenly falls silent.

“What was that you said, cockroach?” the man said. “What was your message for me?”

After a long, uneasy pause, the cockroach finally replies. “I was told to give you one message to help you embrace your vastly altered life,” it said, followed by another long pause. “Wesley Sneijder is being linked with Manchester United.”

The man beamed a broad smile, before striding off on his way. It may look and feel nothing like he had ever encountered on earth before, but perhaps this new world wasn’t so different after all. He was sure of that now.”

I have no idea which of the team wrote it, but I’ve always really liked it, and now seems as good a time as any to revisit
Ed Quoththeraven

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