Nations League: Germany Thump Italy 5-2

Germany's forward Timo Werner (L) celebrates scoring the 4-0 goal with his teammates during the UEFA Nations League football match Germany v Italy at the Borussia Park stadium in Moenchengladbach, western Germany, on June 14, 2022. John MACDOUGALL / AFP
Germany’s forward Timo Werner (L) celebrates scoring the 4-0 goal with his teammates during the UEFA Nations League football match Germany v Italy at the Borussia Park stadium in Moenchengladbach, western Germany, on June 14, 2022. John MACDOUGALL / AFP


Germany equalled their biggest ever win over European champions Italy as Timo Werner scored twice in a thumping 5-2 Nations League victory on Tuesday.

The result in Moenchengladbach matched the Germans’ 5-2 triumph over the Azzurri at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium back in 1939.

Germany captain Manuel Neuer said the result was an “important milestone” for the hosts.

“You could tell today that we wanted to dominate,” he said.

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An early goal by Joshua Kimmich and Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty at Borussia Park put Germany 2-0 up before the floodgates opened early in the second half.

Thomas Mueller scored his 44th goal for Germany on his 116th international appearance before Werner scored twice in quick succession.

Italy’s consolation goals came late on through 18-year-old striker Wilfried Gnonto and Alessandro Bastoni.

“We played really good football at times and deserved to win,” said Gundogan.

“If we play like we did today, many teams will have a hard time against us.”

The result sees Germany move second in Group A3 as previous leaders Italy dropped to third, with Hungary top after a shock 4-0 win over England in Wolverhampton.

Germany could only scramble a 1-1 draw thanks to a late Kimmich goal when the sides last met in Bologna in early June, but this was a vastly improved performance.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini paid the price for making nine changes from the team which drew with England last weekend as only Gianluigi Donnarumma and David Frattesi kept their places in an experimental side.

German coach Hansi Flick made five alterations to the team which drew with Hungary in Budapest last Saturday as Gundogan seized his chance on his return.

The Manchester City star bossed the Italian midfield, creating more space up front.

Germany took the lead when Werner and Hoffenheim’s David Raum combined to set up Kimmich, who fired in on 10 minutes.

Italy conceded again just before half-time when Bastoni brought down Jonas Hofmann and Gundogan swept the resulting penalty past Donnarumma.

Mueller grabbed Germany’s third goal when he drilled a sloppy clearance into the Italian net.

Werner punished the visitors with two goals inside a minute, as Serge Gnabry provided both assists after slicing through the Italy defence.

Neuer, who had been outstanding all night, was finally beaten when he blocked a shot by Federico Dimarco into the path of Gnonto, then Bastoni headed in.

“We didn’t play the game we wanted,” admitted Gnonto. “Germany were clearly better and we have to match this level, which won’t be easy.”



Osimhen Wins Serie A U-23 Most Valuable Player Award

File photo of Victor Osimhen


Super Eagles striker Victor Osimhen has won the Italian Serie A Most Valuable Player (MVP) for U-23 footballers. 

The Napoli hitman beat Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic and AC Milan’s Rafael Leao to the prize which was announced on Friday evening.

“Goals, goals, goals. A young striker with the experience of a veteran:
@victorosimhen9 is the best Under-23 of this #SerieA,” the league tweeted on its official handle while unveiling the former U-17 World Cup champion as the winner.

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Osimhen, 23, was out for two months due to a facial injury but managed 14 league goals in 26 games for Napoli who are set to finish the season under review in 3rd spot.

Four out of his 18 goals in 31 games in all competitions were scored in Napoli’s Europa League campaign.

The Nigerian’s future has been a subject of rife speculations for months. Reports are linking him away from the Italian side whom he joined in 2020 for a club and African record fee of €81.3m.

He has been linked to several sides including Arsenal, Manchester United, and lately, Newcastle United.

Italy, Dubai-Bound Drugs Blocked In Lagos As NDLEA Seizes 203,879 Tramadol Tabs



Fresh bids by drug cartels to export Tramadol, Ecstasy MDMA, and Cannabis to Milan, Italy, and Dubai, the United Arab Emirates through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja Lagos have been foiled by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

The officials seized 203, 879 tablets of various pharmaceutical opioids and illicit substances in raids across Abia, Kaduna, Yobe, and Kogi states.

At the Lagos airport, a female passenger, Odia Emiliana Efe was arrested on Monday 9th May while trying to board a Royal Air Moroc flight from Lagos via Casablanca to Milan, Italy with 1000 tablets of Tramadol 200mg concealed in food items.

According to the Spokesman for the NDLEA, Femi Babafemi, five days after, Friday 13th May, a freight agent Kareem Ibrahim was arrested at the SAHCO cargo shed of the airport for attempting to export food items in which were hidden blocks of cannabis weighing 6.65kg and 24grams of ecstasy drug, MDMA to Dubai in UAE.


Meanwhile, in Abia, three trucks loaded with drugs coming from Lagos and Onitsha, Anambra were intercepted in Aba, Abia state. When properly searched in the presence of the owners on Wednesday 11th May, 67,100 tablets/capsules of Tramadol and 12,650 ampules of pentazocine, morphine, and dopamine were recovered.

On the same day, NDLEA operatives in Kaduna arrested a notorious drug dealer, Shehu Kabiru a.k.a Dan-Zaira, wanted by the Kastina Command of the Agency for jumping bail. Recovered from him include 45,000 tablets of Diazepam weighing 41.5kg; 50,000 tablets of Exol, weighing 15.6kg; 1,500 tablets of Rohypnol weighing 700 grams and 300 bottles of codeine weighing 41.5kg.


Similarly, in Yobe state, no fewer than 7,029 tablets of Tramadol, D5, and Exol as well as 1.5kg cannabis were recovered from a drug dealer, Ibrahim Yakubu when his hideout was raided in Unguru town on Sunday 8th May, while in Rivers state, one Chekiri Richard Obomanu was arrested at Eleme area on Wednesday 11th May with 207.2kg cannabis.

No less than 19,600 tablets of Tramadol coming from Onitsha, Anambra state to Abuja were intercepted and recovered along Okene/Abuja highway on Wednesday 11th May by NDLEA operatives in Kogi state.


In another development, five members of a syndicate, which conducts fake recruitment into security agencies, have been arrested in coordinated operations in Zamfara, Kebbi, and Bauchi states. The leader of the gang, Yakubu Sani was first arrested in Gusau, Zamfara state. His criminal gang issues fake NDLEA employment letters and identity cards to unsuspecting members of the public for the sum of N400, 000 per person.

A follow-up operation in Zuru, Kebbi state led to the arrest of another gang member, Ibrahim Isah, while three others; Dahiru Musa Limanchi, Gambo Danladi, and Umar Abubakar were nabbed in Bauchi state. Recovered from them include a fake NDLEA ID card; NDLEA guarantor form; INEC offer of appointment letter; Nigerian Customs Special Replacement Form and appointment letter; Nigerian Correctional Service Replacement Form; Credentials of some Applicants; Receipts and passport photos; Five sim packs and one MTN SIM card.


Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) commended the officers and men of the MMIA, Abia, Kaduna, Yobe, Rivers, and Kogi for the arrests and seizures.

He equally acknowledged the well-conducted operations in Zamfara, Kebbi, and Bauchi that nailed five members of a criminal gang scamming innocent job seekers with fake employment letters. He charged them and their compatriots across all commands not to rest on their oars but should continue to aspire to beat previous records.


Italy Impounds Mega Yacht Linked To Putin

A view shows the multi-million-dollar mega yacht Scheherazade, docked at the Tuscan port of Marina di Carrara, Tuscany, on May 6, 2022, after its basin was reflooded.  Federico SCOPPA / AFP


The Italian authorities on Friday impounded a mega yacht at the centre of a mystery over its ownership as speculation swirled it might even belong to the Russian president.

“Scheherazade”, worth an estimated $700 million, has been the subject of a probe into its ownership by Italy’s financial police.

The Italian probe has helped “establish significant economic and business links between the person who officially possesses the Scheherazade and eminent people in the Russian government,” as well as Russian figures sanctioned by the West following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Italian Ministry of Economy and finance said in a statement.

Following the probe, “the minister of Economy and Finance, Daniele Franco, has signed a decree impounding” the yacht, the statement added.

It had been berthed for several months for maintenance work at a shipyard at the Marina di Carrara, within the western seaside town of Massa.

But the yacht was back on the water and seemed about to set sail on Friday, an AFP photographer said before the Italian government statement was issued.

READ ALSO: Russian Oligarch’s Yacht Seized In Fiji On US Request

A view shows the multi-million-dollar mega yacht Scheherazade, docked at the Tuscan port of Marina di Carrara, Tuscany, on May 6, 2022, after its basin was reflooded.  Federico SCOPPA / AFP 

But the mystery remains unresolved: who does “Scheherazade” belong to? A Russian oligarch? Vladimir Putin?

Built by Germany’s Luerssen in 2020, the 140-metre yacht features two helipads, a swimming pool, and a movie theatre, according to the SuperYachtFan website, which researches yachts and their owners.

Italian police had said they were doing their best to identify the owner.

“It’s not always easy to attribute ownership” of a yacht, a source close to the Italian probe told AFP in late March.

The same source said earlier Friday there was “nothing new” in the investigation.

Researchers at the anti-corruption foundation of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny link the yacht to Putin.

They cited a crew list in their possession that included several members of Russia’s federal protective service, charged with Putin’s security.

But the Italian Sea Group said in a statement the yacht was “not attributable to the property of Russian President Vladimir Putin”.

The shipyard’s owner said its assessment was based on “the documentation in its possession and following the findings of the checks carried out by the relevant authorities”.


Germany Takes Italy To Court Over Nazi Compensation Claims

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.


Germany on Friday brought a case against Italy before the International Court of Justice on the grounds that Rome is continuing to claim World War II compensation, thereby “failing to respect its jurisdictional immunity”, the court said.

The UN’s highest court ruled in 2012 that Italy had failed to fulfil its obligations by allowing victims of Nazi crimes between 1943 and 1945 to make compensation claims against Germany.

However, despite the ruling, Italian courts have “since 2012, have entertained a significant number of new claims… in violation of Germany’s sovereign immunity,” Berlin’s application said.

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Germany, in particular, referred to a 2014 judgement of the Italian Constitutional Court that permitted “individual claims by victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity to be brought against sovereign states”.

That ruling was “adopted in conscious violation of international law and of Italy’s duty to comply with a judgment of the principal judicial organ of the United Nations”, Germany said.

According to the ICJ, Germany says at least 25 new cases have been brought against Berlin before the Italian courts, and in at least 15 proceedings, they have “entertained and decided upon claims against Germany in relation to conduct of the German Reich during World War II”.

Germany, which has for years faced an increasing number of disputes before Italian courts brought by families of victims of Nazi crimes, filed a complaint with the ICJ in December 2008.

Berlin argues that the issue of compensation was resolved in the framework of international post-war agreements.

Based in the Hague, the ICJ was established in 1946 to settle disputes between states. Its judgements are binding and cannot be appealed, but the court has no means of enforcing them.

Mourinho Rebuilding Reputation As Revitalised Roma Eye European Glory

In this file photo taken on March 4, 2021, Tottenham Hotspur’s Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho looks on during the English Premier League football match between Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur at Craven Cottage in London. NEIL HALL / POOL / AFP


Jose Mourinho returns to England on Thursday on a wave of enthusiasm as upbeat Roma prepare for their third European semi-final in five seasons with fans firmly behind their charismatic manager.

Mourinho’s spell at Tottenham, the first since 2002 where he left a club without winning a trophy, left the man formerly known as The Special One’s stock at an all-time low.

A crop of attack-minded coaches had left Mourinho behind as he crept towards his 60s, but he is rebuilding his reputation in the country where his star has never waned thanks to the historic treble he won for Inter Milan nearly 12 years ago.

Defeat on Saturday at Italian champions Inter ended a 12-match unbeaten run in Serie A and fifth-placed Roma’s outside hopes of reaching the Champions League.

They were outclassed at the San Siro by a superior team who are heavily fancied to retain their league title but the 3-1 loss failed to end the positive vibes in Rome ahead of Thursday’s trip to Leicester for the first leg of their European Conference League semi.

Fans have been packing the Stadio Olimpico for recent matches with more than 65,000 attending wins over Salernitana and Bodo/Glimt and 1,600 will be in fine voice at the King Power Stadium hoping that their team end an England hoodoo.

Roma have won just one of their 22 matches played in England, at Anfield way back in 2001 with Fabio Cappello at the helm for a 2-1 aggregate UEFA Cup defeat to Liverpool, and have taken some heavy beatings from Premier League sides down the years.

Last season’s Europa League first-leg 6-2 hammering at Manchester United cost Roma their first continental final since 1984 when they were beaten by Liverpool on penalties at their own ground.

Under Mourinho, Roma look more solid than they did under predecessor Paulo Fonseca and he has managed to create a cohesion between the team and a notoriously volatile fan base which last saw their team win a trophy in 2008.

Winning Mentality

In this file photo, Tottenham Hotspur’s Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho gestures on the touchline as Tottenham Hotspur’s Welsh striker Gareth Bale (L) leaves the game, substituted during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Tottenham Hotspur at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on January 31, 2021.


“He’s instilled in everyone the idea of never giving up, staying on it, and coming together to get results,” starlet Nicolo Zaniolo said in an interview with UEFA.

“We have a coach who knows what it takes to win, I think we’ve got a chance.”

Roma supporters have continually backed their coach even in the face of some deeply poor performances and at time embarrassing results — not even a 6-1 hammering at the hands of Bodo in the Conference League groups stage led to vociferous training ground protests which have been inflicted on previous coaches.

Considered yesterday’s man in England, Mourinho’s name still carries immense weight in Italy and fans have been prepared to stick by him in the hope that he weaves the same magic which denied them the Serie A crown in 2010.

Back then Mourinho was public enemy number one in the ‘Giallorosso’ half of the Italian capital as his Inter team pipped Roma to the league on the final day of the season, a triumph that came after Lazio fans had hailed him a “true man in a fake football” in a match against Inter they had demanded their own team lose.

Against type, the 59-year-old has even created a team which plays in a more contemporary style, pressing its opposition and at times putting together some sparkling passing manoeuvres.

Stephan El Shaarawy’s recent equaliser at then-title chasers Napoli was the latest example of rapid ball movement and forward-looking play which has helped Tammy Abraham net 24 times in all competitions in his first season in Italy.

The return from injury of Zaniolo, whose hat-trick in the previous round eased Roma’s passage into the last four, will also help Mourinho in his bid to make history.


Italy Should Cut Off Russian Gas ‘Soon’: Minister

An employee works at the Tunisian Sergaz company, that controls the Tunisian segment of the Trans-Mediterranean (Transmed) pipeline, through which natural gas flows from Algeria to Italy, in El-Haouaria, some 100km east of the capital Tunis, on April 14, 2022. FETHI BELAID / AFP
An employee works at the Tunisian Sergaz company, that controls the Tunisian segment of the Trans-Mediterranean (Transmed) pipeline, through which natural gas flows from Algeria to Italy, in El-Haouaria, some 100km east of the capital Tunis, on April 14, 2022. FETHI BELAID / AFP


Italy is ethically obliged to stop buying Russian gas “soon” as the payments are funding the Ukraine war, the country’s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani said in an interview Thursday.

“I think that we will have to stop supplies of gas from Russia soon for ethical reasons,” he told La Stampa newspaper.

The minister is currently on a two-day trip to Angola and Congo Republic seeking energy deals as Italy scrambles to reduce its dependency on Russia, which provides about 45 percent of Italian gas.

READ ALSO: US Readying New $800m Military Aid For Ukraine

“We are diversifying our sources with great speed,” he said.

“It is clear that all of Europe is heavily dependent on Russia for gas, and this has been a major geopolitical mistake made over the past 20 years,” he said.

“It is useless to think that we can solve it in a month. From a certain point of view, however, this money is a lot… we are indirectly financing the war.”

Cingolani predicted the country would no longer need Russian gas within 18 months.

Just two weeks earlier he had said he expected it to take up to three years.

“By the second half of next year we will really begin to have an almost complete independence,” he told La Stampa.

Italy is one of Europe’s biggest guzzlers of gas, which currently represents 42 percent of its energy consumption, and it imports 95 percent of the gas it uses.

The foray into Angola and the Congo Republic follows the clinching of agreements with Algeria and Egypt in recent weeks.

The government is also readying so-called “operation thermostat”, which could see the public sector forced to use less heating and air conditioning, and the general public called to follow suit.


Italy Chases African Gas To End Dependence On Russia

This picture shows installations at the Tunisian Sergaz company, that controls the Tunisian segment of the Trans-Mediterranean (Transmed) pipeline, through which natural gas flows from Algeria to Italy, in El-Haouaria, some 100km east of the capital Tunis, on April 14, 2022.


Italian ministers headed to central Africa Wednesday in an urgent quest for new energy deals as Italy scrambles to break away from Russian gas over the Ukraine war.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi is looking to add Angola and the Congo Republic to a portfolio of suppliers to substitute Russia, which provides about 45 percent of Italian gas.

“We do not want to depend on Russian gas any longer, because economic dependence must not become political subjection,” he said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera daily published on Sunday.

“Diversification is possible and can be implemented in a relatively short amount of time — quicker than we imagined just a month ago,” he said.

Draghi was due to go himself but after testing positive for Covid-19, sent Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani in his place.

They were due to arrive in Luanda on Wednesday evening, before heading to Brazzaville on Thursday, accompanied by Claudio Descalzi, chief executive of Italian energy giant ENI.

“This is a race against time to make sure we stock gas and oil for the next winter season,” said Francesco Galietti, head of Rome-based consultancy Policy Sonar.

In Angola, the ministers were due to meet with President Joao Lourenco — who also spoke by telephone Wednesday with Draghi — before signing a “declaration of intent” on energy cooperation, officials on both sides said.

A similar declaration will be signed in the Republic of Congo following talks with President Denis Sassou Nguesso, Italy’s foreign ministry said.

The foray follows the signing of agreements with Algeria and Egypt in recent weeks.

Algeria is currently Italy’s second-largest supplier, providing around 30 percent of its consumption.

ENI said the deal with Algeria’s Sonatrach would boost deliveries of gas through the Transmed undersea pipeline by “up to nine billion cubic meters per year” by 2023-24.

Transmed only had a spare pipeline capacity of 7.8 billion cubic metres per year in 2021 — though it has said it is ready to expand.

Italy has also been in talks with Azerbaijan over the expansion of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).


The Egypt accord could result in up to three billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) bound to Europe and Italy, in particular, this year, ENI said.

Italy is looking into buying or renting two floating storage and regasification units (FSRU) to allow it to import more LNG.

Diversification will not be cheap, warn experts, who foresee extra taxes passed on to businesses and families.

Davide Tabarelli, head of energy think tank Nomisma Energia, said Rome was rightly exploiting the “excellent relationships” that ENI has built up over 69 years in Africa, where it is the sector leader in terms of production and reserves.

But the idea of replacing Russian gas “in the short term” was “fanciful”, he told AFP. “It will take at least two or three years.”

The government said it expects to get the floating regasification units into place within 18 months.

It has also talked of kick-starting stalled projects for two onshore regasification plants, which would take some four years to build.

 ‘Operation thermostat’

Italy is one of Europe’s biggest guzzlers of gas, which currently represents 42 percent of its energy consumption, and it imports 95 percent of the gas it uses.

The government hopes to reduce that by accelerating the investment in renewables and has vowed to cut red tape on wind and solar farms.

Draghi has called for a collective sacrifice, asking Italians this month: “Do we want to have peace or do we want to have the air conditioning on?”

His rallying cry was met with some grumbling in a country feeling the effects of global heating, which science shows is driven by the human burning of fossil fuels.

Undeterred, the government is readying the so-called “operation thermostat”, which could see the public sector turn down heating in schools and offices by one degree, and the equivalent for air conditioning in the summer.

The rule would apply to private households and companies too, though it would be difficult to police.

It could save some four billion metric cubes of natural gas a year — or around 14 percent of the total gas imported from Russia, according to La Stampa newspaper.


From Euro Glory To World Cup Disaster — What Happened To Italy?

North Macedonia’s defender Ezgjan Alioski (L) challenges Italy’s forward Domenico Berardi (C) during the 2022 World Cup qualifying play-off football match between Italy and North Macedonia, on March 24, 2022, at the Renzo-Barbera stadium in Palermo. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP


Italy is once again reeling after failing to reach a second straight World Cup, throwing away automatic qualification before falling to a devastating defeat in the play-offs to North Macedonia.

AFP looks at what has happened to the Azzurri since their triumph at Euro 2020, which seemed to announce their return as a world power after missing out in 2018.

Swaggering Style Vanishes

One of the hallmarks of the early stages of Roberto Mancini’s reign as coach was that he gave the players freedom to enjoy their football and insisted on an expansive style of play that engaged supporters and created real momentum heading into the Euro.

After bringing in new faces throughout the team Italy won every match in Euro qualification and their first three World Cup qualifiers, often with a more relaxed style than traditionally associated with the discipline-focused Italians.

However, once Leonardo Spinazzola injured his Achilles tendon in their 2-1 quarter-final win over Belgium, Italy lost a key outlet and regressed to a more traditional, solid style which bled into their performances post-Wembley.

READ ALSO: Italy Miss Second Straight World Cup After Shock Defeat To North Macedonia

On Thursday Italy dominated as expected but there was a huge feeling of tension on the pitch which had increased with each underwhelming performance.

Goals drying upThe win over Belgium in Munich in the Euro quarter-final was their 13th in a row stretching back to the previous November, during which time they had scored 36 times and conceded just twice.

Between then and Thursday’s disaster they drew six times in nine matches with five of their 13 goals coming in one of their two wins, against Lithuania.

Up front is where Italy are weakest but Ciro Immobile’s inability to replicate his superb Lazio form for the national team is the most striking example of how stale Italy’s football has become.

Chances have been hard to come by in recent matches and their final two regular qualifiers, against Switzerland and Northern Ireland in November, were particularly lacking in the invention which would give someone like former European Golden Shoe winner Immobile the opportunities he needs to score.

And again on Thursday, he was almost invisible, his back permanently to goal and crowded out both by a packed defence and two wingers cutting inside to shoot rather than create width.

Good Old-Fashioned Luck

Mancini said that “the good luck we had in our favour changed into total bad luck”, and while good fortune doesn’t explain why he persisted with off-form players like Lorenzo Insigne and Nicolo Barella, it is a factor.

Had Jorginho scored his stoppage-time penalty in Italy’s penultimate qualifier against Switzerland Italy would almost certainly already have their ticket to Qatar.

However the Chelsea midfielder smashed his spot-kick onto the Stadio Olimpico running track, the match finished one apiece and that allowed the Swiss to steal first place in Group C on the final day.

The story would also probably have been different had Yann Sommer, the hero of a famous Euro shoot-out win over France, not saved another Jorginho penalty in September’s goalless draw in Basel.

Penalties may not be a complete lottery but to win two shoot-outs after being the worse side in the Euro semi-final and final requires some good fortune which has simply run out since.


Mancini Eyes Exit After Italy World Cup Disaster

 In this file photograph taken on March 25, 2021, Italy’s coach Roberto Mancini reacts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C qualification football match between Italy and Northern Ireland at The Ennio-Tardini Stadium in Parma.  Marco BERTORELLO / AFP


Roberto Mancini’s future as Italy’s boss is uncertain after an unimaginable play-off defeat to North Macedonia denied the team he guided to Euro 2020 glory a place at the World Cup.

Mancini was immediately backed by both captain Giorgio Chiellini and the president of the Italian Football Federation Gabriele Gravina in the immediate aftermath of possibly the most embarrassing defeat in the Azzurri’s history.

And such was the disappointment at a dominating but fundamentally turgid display against a side missing their key player Eljif Elmas that Mancini could yet cut short a contract that runs until 2026, the earliest Italy can expect to next play in a World Cup.

READ ALSO: Italy Miss Second Straight World Cup After Shock Defeat To North Macedonia

Mancini said “the disappointment is too great” to make any decisions on his future before Italy travel to Konya to take part in Tuesday’s pointless match with Turkey.

Italian media are already reporting that the 57-year-old, whose side have only lost twice since the start of 2019 could very well quit, with Fabio Cannavaro and Carlo Ancelotti being touted as potential successors.

Chiellini would rather that Mancini stayed, despite knowing he will finish his career never having known any joy at a World Cup, saying the former Inter Milan and Manchester City coach was “essential to this Italian team”.

The Juventus defender was dumped out of the group stages in both 2010 and 2014 — notoriously being bitten by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez — and failed to reach the next two editions.

‘Complacent Performance’ 

Thursday night’s elimination is especially painful for the entirely unexpected and humiliating way it happened.

The 92nd-minute goal from former Palermo player Aleksandar Trajkovski at his old stomping ground condemned the Italians once again to the margins of world football.

It was also a precipitous decline, as Mancini and Italy had been full of enthusiasm heading into the second half of World Cup qualifying after their stunning Euro triumph in July which had completed a comeback from the abyss.

Mancini became a national hero last summer for beating England at Wembley but also for the way he had done it.

He had built a team from the ashes of failed 2018 World Cup qualification which won games but also played a flowing style of football not often seen in the national side.

They had won their first three World Cup qualifiers after winning every match in qualification for the Euro and looked nailed on for Group C’s only automatic spot in Qatar.

A complacent performance against Bulgaria in September’s homecoming party in Florence was followed by their luck turning in key moments — Jorginho’s missed penalties in both matches against Switzerland condemning Italy to the play-offs.

Added to this was Mancini’s insistence on sticking with the block of players who won the Euro, even when the dreadful club form of players like Lorenzo Insigne and Nicolo Barella was carried over to the national team.

Had Italy done the bare minimum and beaten North Macedonia at home, the team would not have been favourites to win the final against Portugal given the way they played in recent months.

A sparse calendar now awaits, with a clash between them as European champions and Copa America holders Argentina at Wembley in June and Nations League fixtures that month and in September, when their rivals will be gearing up for a World Cup they’ll have to watch on television.


Italy Miss Second Straight World Cup After Shock Defeat To North Macedonia

North Macedonia’s defender Ezgjan Alioski (L) challenges Italy’s forward Domenico Berardi (C) during the 2022 World Cup qualifying play-off football match between Italy and North Macedonia, on March 24, 2022, at the Renzo-Barbera stadium in Palermo. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP


Roberto Mancini was reeling from the most painful defeat of his managerial career after Thursday’s stunning, last-gasp 1-0 loss to North Macedonia meant they missed out on their second World Cup in a row.

Mancini had become a national hero after leading the Azzurri back from the horrors of failing to reach the 2018 tournament and winning Euro 2020 last summer.

However, performance levels have dropped since those balmy nights and after throwing away automatic qualification in November Italy were dumped out in a humiliating fashion in Palermo in a fraught play-off semi-final.

READ ALSO: From Euro Glory To World Cup Disaster — What Happened To Italy?

“Just like July was the best thing to happen to me in my career, this is my biggest disappointment… I’m really sad for my players,” Mancini told RAI.

“The disappointment is too much for me to speak about my future for now.”

If Mancini was vague on whether he would stay in his job the head of the Italian Football Federation, Gabriele Gravina, was clear that he wanted Mancini to stay on as manager even after a crushing blow for the country’s football.

It was a former Palermo player in Aleksandar Trajkovski who stunned the European champions, his low drive in the second minute of stoppage time setting up a qualifying final with Portugal in Porto on Tuesday for a chance to be in Qatar in November.

“We had two shots and won the game. We won like Italians against the Italians,” said Blagoja Milevski, whose side will have Napoli’s Eljif Elmas back from suspension for their trip to Porto.

‘I’m Responsible’

Mancini’s side were loudly booed off after a defeat which means Italy will have to wait until at least 2026 to see its national team at a World Cup.

By then it will have been 12 years since the Azzurri’s last participation in the world’s biggest football tournament after they also crashed out in the play-offs in 2017.

Astonishingly Italy will not go to the World Cup despite only losing twice since the start of 2019, to Spain in the Nations League last autumn and on Thursday.

“It’s difficult to talk about a match in which we had 40 shots and they had one or two,” Mancini told reporters later.

“I’m the coach, when in football things go wrong it’s the coach’s fault, so I am responsible.”

Italy as predicted dominated the play but as has been the case in recent matches struggled to break down a resolute away side and when presented with chances were not clinical enough to take them.

They should have been ahead on the half-hour mark when Domenico Berardi was gifted the ball on the edge of the area by goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.

The Sassuolo winger, who has been in red-hot form this season for his club, took too long to shoot and hit his effort into Dimitrievski’s welcoming arms.

Trajkovski The Hero

The home fans, whose frustration was growing, were on their feet hailing an Italy hero seven minutes before the break, but it was for Alessandro Florenzi stopping Darko Churlinov from giving North Macedonia the lead after bursting through into a great scoring position.

Berardi looked Italy’s biggest threat and went close three times in the space of five second-half minutes, first hitting a weak shot at Dimitrievski before curling another one just wide seconds later.

And the 27-year-old had his head in his hands in the 58th minute when after beautifully spinning into a shooting opportunity he smashed over with his weaker right foot.

He was frustrated again just after the hour, this time Ezgjan Alioski throwing himself into a fantastic block after Marco Verratti had clipped Berardi through with a typically classy ball.

Giacomo Raspadori then smashed a first-time shot over the bar from the edge of the box and Gianluca Mancini headed a corner over the bar as Italy continued to push without ever managing to break their opponents down.

But just as the match looked to be heading into a tense extra-time Trajkovski popped up to hit a perfect low strike past Gianluigi Donnarumma and cause another earthquake for Italian football.