It is ‘SHAMEFUL’ that Italy were not given automatic World Cup place and a tournament without European champions is ‘madness’, claims Azzurri legend Roberto Baggio
- Italy missed out on World Cup qualification after losing to North Macedonia
- The Azurri had won the European Championship last summer at Wembley
- Roberto Baggio blasted the fact that Italy did not automatically qualify for Qatar
- Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates
Italy legend Roberto Baggio has declared it ‘shameful’ that Italy did not automatically qualify for the Qatar World Cup owing to last summer’s triumphant European Championship campaign.
Italy beat England on penalties at Wembley to win their first major tournament since 2006.
However, a disappointing end to qualifying followed and Italy ended up in a play-off tie with North Macedonia, having finished two points behind Switzerland.
Italy suffered World Cup heartbreak when they lost to North Macedonia in Palermo
After the Azurri missed a host of chances, including a penalty, the underdogs North Macedonia prevailed 1-0 in Palermo.
Speaking at an event from Rome, Baggio, who himself suffered World Cup final agony in 1994, labelled the situation surrounding Italy’s non-appearance at November’s World Cup finals ‘shameful’.
He said: ‘Italy won the European Championship, I think it’s shameful, it’s madness that they are not given an automatic berth to the World Cup for that,’
Italy went from their highest high since they won the 2006 World Cup to one of their lowest moments as a nation missing out on consecutive World Cup tournaments
‘Anyone can lose one game against anyone else on a bad day, but these lads deserve some sort of reward for what they achieved, don’t they? If I had been in that squad, I would’ve struggled to accept it,’ he added.
Baggio, who made 56 appearances for the national team spanned across three decades, said the players’ performance at Wembley for their Finalissma game against Argentina was down to the psychological impact of having missed out on Qatar qualification.
‘I think Italy suffered psychological after-effects from the World Cup elimination. You can see it’s a psychological issue,’ Baggio claimed.
North Macedonia enjoyed one of the great nights in their country’s footballing history
‘We saw last night, you just cannot compare the calm and confidence of the Argentina players to our current state of mind.’
Meanwhile, introspection is the name of the game when a major nation misses out on a tournament and Baggio alluded to the need for young players to be given more opportunities in Serie A.
A report by the CIES Football Observatory in 2018 found that Serie A had the second highest average age by team in all of the top divisions across Europe, second only to Cyprus.
Roberto Baggio said that Italy’s loss to Argentina at Wembley was a result of the psychological impacts of missing out on the World Cup finals
Baggio said: ‘Roberto Mancini did something extraordinary, he must be respected and allowed to continue working the way he has done. We have young talents who are not given room to play in Serie A and that is a well-known problem.’
The mercurial former Azurri star, who battled injuries throughout his career notably in his knees, offered encouragement to Roma starlet Nicolo Zaniolo who has suffered from similar issues.
‘I hope he can recover fully, as unfortunately the injuries have really penalised him a great deal,’ he said. ‘The goal he scored in the Conference League Final can only boost his confidence and let him look to the future with less pressure.’
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