It was a crushing group stage exit for Italy as they were defeated 1-0 by Uruguay at the Estádio das Dunas.
After a promising start, beating England 2-1 on Saturday 14th June, things went downhill for Italy as they conceded a fatal goal against Costa Rica the following Friday. The team finished third in Group D and left Brazil hanging their heads in shame.
This is a stark contrast from a team that has won a World Cup this century, having clinched the Jules Rimet trophy in 2006. As Germany leave Brazil this week with the coveted prize in their hand, the European team in a South American continent theory is clearly out of the window, so the question remains, where did it all go wrong for Italy?
Thankfully for Azzurri, their World Cup defeat was conveniently overshadowed by the explosive Luis Suarez biting scandal, which saw all eyes on the Uruguay forward’s ban, allowing Italy to quietly slip into obscurity without a fuss.
However, the more astute spectator will have noted Mario Balotelli’s performance as a catalyst for their embarrassing defeat in 2014. The forward was nowhere to be seen during the second half of the Uruguay match, leading fellow teammate Daniele De Rossi to make the scathing remark: “We need real men, not Panini stickers or characters.”
As a player who has been the victim of racist attacks in the past, resulting in falling crowd numbers, we can forgive Balotelli for feeling a little less than motivated for 2014. What cannot be forgiven, however, is Italy’s state of disrepair since lifting the trophy in 2006 – in both 2010 and 2014 they left at the group stages and their aggregate record in both shows one win, two draws and three losses in six matches.
Perhaps Italy’s crumbling stadia are to blame for the team’s lack of morale in the last eight years. Alternatively, violence in Italy instigated by the ultras does nothing for Italy’s national pride. It is one of the many problems that Italy will now need to focus on in preparation for the Euros 2016.
There’s a silver lining for Italy though, and a new cohort of young players could see their odds improve to win the Euros. Combined, Simone Scuffet, Nicola Murru, Stephan El Shaarawy, Daniele Baselli and Domenico Berardi could just be the fresh meat that Italy so desperately needs.
Add that to a little investment in your stadia and some more policing around your supporters, and the next two years could prove very fruitful for you, Azzurri.