Ventura likely to be axed, Ancelotti a potential successor

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura could face the sack after failing to take his side to the World Cup Finals for the first time in 60 years.
Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura could face the sack after failing to take his side to the World Cup Finals for the first time in 60 years.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MILAN • Italy's football federation (FIGC) will meet today to discuss coach Gian Piero Ventura's future following their shocking failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio said a "shared solution" was necessary after Italy's first failure to qualify since 1958, following their 0-1 aggregate defeat by Sweden in a two-leg play-off.

"We are deeply bitter and disappointed over the failure to qualify for the World Cup. It is a sporting failure," said Tavecchio yesterday in an FIGC statement. "For this reason I called a meeting tomorrow to conduct a thorough analysis and decide on future choices."

Ventura, whose contract was extended in August to run until Euro 2020, refused to step down immediately after the 0-0 second-leg draw against Sweden on Monday.

According to Sky Sports, he left by the back exit of the team hotel in Milan yesterday, and will not be attending the meeting today - an indication that he is likely to be sacked.

The 69-year-old - the oldest man ever to coach Italy - was described by Tavecchio as a "master of football" when he replaced Antonio Conte following Euro 2016 and was initially given a two-year contract.

Ventura has never won a major title and has spent much of his career in Italian football's lower divisions.

However, he gained widespread respect following a five-year spell with Torino when he led them out of Serie B and to several respectable finishes in Serie A.

Ventura has been in charge of the national side for 17 games with 10 wins, four draws and three defeats but the Italian media were in no doubt that he has to go.

La Gazzetta newspaper said: "Ventura, now it's over", identifying Carlo Ancelotti, who is currently out of work after leaving German Bundesliga side Bayern Munich, as one potential successor.

"Whoever comes in will have to rebuild from rubble and work towards Euro 2020," read the article.

"The most fancied name is Ancelotti but there is the possibility (Chelsea manager Antonio) Conte will return.

"Very welcome alternatives would be (Roberto) Mancini and (Massimiliano) Allegri, if they can leave their respective roles at Zenit St Petersburg and Juventus."

Apart from the pressure on Italy to have a coaching change, three veteran players also announced their international retirements following the match on Monday.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, 39, confirmed he has played his 175th and final game for Italy, bringing an end to a 20-year international career that included winning the 2006 World Cup.

"I'm not sorry for myself but all of Italian football," Buffon told Italian broadcaster Rai. "It's upsetting that my last Italy game coincides with our elimination for the World Cup."

Buffon made his debut for the Azzurri as a 19-year-old in a 1998 World Cup play-off victory over Russia, but his last match saw him fail in his bid to become the first man to play in six World Cups.

Defender Andrea Barzagli, 36, and 34-year-old midfielder Daniele de Rossi also called it a day for Italy.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

SEE ALSO: How it went all wrong for Italy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2017, with the headline 'Ventura likely to be axed, Ancelotti a potential successor'. Print Edition | Subscribe