Many soccer fans in Italy have gone their whole lives without knowing what it feels like to not be a contender in the World Cup. But this is 2017, and the four-time World Cup champions missed the cut for the first time in six decades, after a stunning loss in a playoff qualifier with Sweden.
Prior to their elimination, Italy was a 17-1 pick to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia next summer, making them not quite the favorite, but one of the strongest bets.
The squad needed to defeat Sweden to advance, but a scoreless tie in the second match in a two-game qualifier gave the Swedes the spot on aggregate score. It’ll be their first time to advance since 2006, and they enter with longshot odds anywhere from 50-1 to 200-1 to win.
Country in Mourning
After the 0-0 draw, the Italian players were stunned, many sitting or lying on the field dejected, some crying as they came to grips with the reality of not playing in the event they look forward to every four years.
“It’s a black moment for our game,” Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi said. “Unfortunately there will be a lot of time to analyze it. The only thing I can say is that we showed few ideas and not much in the way of tactics.”
One newspaper ran the headline “Italy, This Is the Apocalypse,” as citizens could not believe their team wasn’t going for only the third time in the 87-year history of the FIFA event. Coach Gian Piero Ventura, who many have called to step down after the debacle, was contrite afterwards.
“I want to apologize to the Italian people for the result,” Ventura said. “Not for the commitment, and the desire and everything else, but for the result.”
Italy’s big miss was the second surprise so far in qualifying play. The US Men’s National Team also missed the cut.
The Americans were listed at 100-1 to win the Cup, a longshot to be sure, but they were expected almost certainly to qualify. But after an embarrassing loss to Trinidad and Tobago, they will miss out for the first time since 1986. Coach Bruce Arena took responsibility for the failure and resigned from the national team three days later.
When 2018 World Cup kicks off in June, defending champion Germany will be the favorites at 5-1. Most sportsbetting sites have Brazil at similar odds to win.
So far, 29 of the 32 spots in the World Cup have been determined. The remaining three will go to aggregate score winners with one game remaining for Australia versus Honduras, Peru versus New Zealand, and Denmark versus Ireland.
Betting odds for these teams range from 125-1 to 500-1 in most cases, with New Zealand being the exception with current odds at 1,000-1 to 1,500-1.