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Gian Piero Ventura has denied resigning from Italy’s managerial role after a 0-0 draw against Sweden on Monday saw his side fail to qualify for the finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
A 1-0 win in the first leg meant Sweden won the fixture on aggregate, and it was widely reported—including by Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol who tweeted after the result that Ventura was no longer in charge.
However, the reports were premature as Ventura stated in his press conference (h/t Football Italia) that he was still at the helm, for the moment.
“I have not resigned, because I haven’t spoken to the president yet,” Ventura said. “I’m sorry for being late, but every player I had the privilege of working with, I wanted to salute individually.”
While the Swedes will feature in their first World Cup since 2006, Italy—who won the tournament that year—will be absent for the first time since 1958.
The Guardian‘s Serie A expert Fabrizio Romano gave a damning assessment of the tactician and his time in charge:
It appears Ventura is on borrowed time, and his comments about being proud to have led the Azzurri appeared to suggest his departure is inevitable.
Italy were in the World Cup UEFA play-offs after finishing second to 2010 world champions Spain in their Group, but a limp effort across both legs of their clash with Sweden has left the team in disarray.
Romano also provided footage of an emotional Gianluigi Buffon welling up as he spoke to reporters after the loss, and the long-standing national team goalkeeper said:
Fabrizio Romano @FabrizioRomano
Buffon to @SkySport: “I am sorry for Italian kids who dream of the National team. But I think also Chiellini, Barzagli and De Rossi will leave the National team. And they deserve the best: thank you, guys. By your Gigi”. 💔🇮🇹
Should he step down, Ventura would leave the Azzurri having won nine of his 16 matches in charge of the team, and competitive defeats to Spain and Sweden have ultimately had a telling impact on the side’s fortunes.
Despite the shock of Italy’s failure to make it to the World Cup, beIN Sports broadcaster Matteo Bonetti argued Monday’s events shouldn’t be that much of a surprise:
Matteo Bonetti @TheCalcioGuy
Ventura put his own personal bias towards Insigne ahead of the success of a nation. Everything about this qualifying process for Italy was underwhelming. Are we really surprised?
Ventura is a journeyman of the Italian league system and has managed Serie A outfits such as Napoli, Torino, Udinese and Sampdoria in the past, although a Serie C1 title win with Lecce in 1996 remains his greatest success.