A prevailing mood in Italy of pessimistic panic
NOT SO ACE VENTURA
The year 1958 featured several milestones. The EEC came into being. The first successful American satellite, Explorer 1 was launched into orbit. Women were allowed sit in the House of Lords for the first time. Milestones, the studio album by jazz trumpeting’s self-styled Prince of Darkness, Miles Davis was released and for the first time Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup. Back then, Gian Piero Ventura was nowt but a fresh-faced 10-year-old gadding about the streets of Genoa, who would have had no idea that almost six decades later he’d be within 90 minutes of masterminding what would be only his country’s second ever failure to qualify for a World Cup.
Having been comprehensively outplayed and beaten by a fairly mediocre Sweden side in Stockholm, Italy have a job on their hands to overturn their 1-0 first-leg deficit in Milan on Monday night. And having bamboozled his stereotypically excitable compatriots with a series of baffling formations and team selections since replacing Antonio Conte, Ventura appears to have been inundated with no end of unsolicited offers of help. “I’ve received so much advice in the past few days that, if I tried to listen to it all, it would take months,” he parped. “I know that’s how it works when you are coach of the national team although I didn’t expect it to be quite like this.”
One publication described it as “a beautiful present from the referee” Ovidiu Hategan, who was roundly disparaged on social media in slightly more colourful, politically incorrect and racially abusive terms by Lisa Evans, the wife of defender Corry, who was incorrectly penalised for the handball that led to the Swiss spot-kick. Evans subsequently apologised “unreservedly” for his wife’s outburst, while his other half has also sort of said sorry. In even more depressing news for Norn Iron Nil fans, the odds on their manager Michael O’Neill abandoning ship have since been slashed to ribbons with a machete. Highly regarded and based in Edinburgh, O’Neill is now the even-money favourite to take over the vacant Scotland job. It would appear that having sampled World Cup heartbreak, he has quickly developed a taste for it and despite the best attempts of Norn Iron and Italy, nobody quite does it like the Scots.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
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