Since the absence of the French team at Euro 1988, no reigning European football champion team has missed the edition which followed its coronation. Italy, winner of Euro 2021 ahead of England (1-1, 3-2 on the tabs), is flirting with this disillusionment.
In Group C, where England (1D) is already qualified, Italy (3e) is under pressure before facing North Macedonia (4e), Friday November 17, and Ukraine (2e), three days later. Defeat against Ukraine is simply forbidden to him. The Transalpines could, however, give themselves a little breathing space by beating North Macedonia. In this scenario, a draw against the “yellow and blue” will be synonymous with qualification for the European Championship. If it does not finish second in its group, Italy will have to compete in dangerous play-offs in March 2024.
After two absences, in quick succession, at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, missing a new major international competition would be experienced as a tragedy by transalpine supporters. For Fabien Archambault, sports historian and specialist in Italian football, the national team is the mirror of Italy’s problems: “The Squadra Azzurra is a barometer to see if the country is doing well, he says. Italy lives in permanent crisis, football is the metaphor that helps explain where Italian society is, for better and for worse…”
Scandals commented on by the political class
“Totonero” corruption scandal in 1980, “Calciopoli” match-fixing affair in 2006… the calcio Italian has often been at the heart of scandals, which the political class has never been slow to comment on. The sports betting controversy involving certain Nazionale players, which broke out in October, was no exception to the rule.
Thursday, October 12, police officers arrived at Coverciano – the national technical center of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) – to question Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo, two players from the selection involved in a case of illicit sports betting. The former is one of the country’s great hopes, transferred to Newcastle last summer for 64 million euros – a record fee for an Italian player. For these bets which he admitted to having made while wearing the AC Milan jersey, the midfielder was suspended for ten months from all his activities by the FIGC. He will therefore miss the Euro if his selection qualifies.
Supported by his coach who considers him to be a “champion”, the 23-year-old player did not experience the same support from Italian elected officials. Andrea Abodi, Minister of Sports, indicated that the players involved in these bets should “to be excluded for life” of the national selection. “This affair was quickly taken up politically, observes Fabien Archambault. Giorgia Meloni (the president of the Council) sees in Tonali an Italian not sufficiently attached to the values of the nation. »
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