Italy plays Sweden in Milan later today trailing 1-0 in their World Cup qualifying playoff. Italy is the latest team facing an uphill scenario for this summer's tournament. For some, think Argentina, it worked out. For others, think the USMNT, it didn't. For fans of the tournament, and there are plenty all over the world, Italy belongs in every World Cup. That means close to nothing on the field. World Soccer's Paddy Agnew has the state of Italian soccer as a whole riding on this second-leg. That's not much of a stretch.
"It would take months to listen it all," Gian Piero Ventura said of the criticism surrounding the team. "A coach always listens but then makes their own mind up. When I arrived at the National Team the situation was this: Only one team would qualify directly for the World Cup and Spain were in the group, the journey was going well but we took into account that Spain were probably stronger and we’d likely have to go to the play-off. We’re there now, if we lose we’ll make certain considerations and if we win we’ll make other ones."
What's worth highlighting is the end of an era aspect of this kind of pressure. This might be it for World Cup qualifying as we know it in parts of the world. UEFA's Nations League will provide European teams with more games that count against each other. That familiarity will have to impact World Cup qualifying for 2022. In CONCACAF, their own version of a Nations League combined with rumored changes to qualifying itself will do the same. In 2026, everything changes through World Cup expansion. With that in mind, these types of scenarios with a big team up against it with 90 minutes to play should become rarities.
Also in the soccer news, San Francisco Deltas won the North American Soccer League championship on Sunday night, shutting out the Cosmos 2-0 at Kezar Stadium. The NASL is in an odd situation where they're fighting a sanctioning decision in Federal Court and wondering if their new champion will continue. San Francisco Deltas have been quite open about their problems in their debut season. That might include letting us know if a trophy changes things. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney on San Francisco's title.
Christian Pulisic in The Players' Tribune on the countdown to the next World Cup opportunity for the USMNT. American Soccer Now's Brian Sciaretta talks to USMNT player Tyler Adams. The Kansas City Star's Vahe Gregorian takes a tour of the National Training and Coaching Development Center.
The Columbus Dispatch's Michael Arace on the message the Crew's investor/operator is sending. Bobby Moffat looks back at the Dallas Tornado World tour in 1967-68 in an excerpt of his book for Southern Soccer Scene. The Sydney Morning Herald's Dominic Bossi on how Australia used their flight home from Honduras as a recovery session.
BBC Sport looks at a report from England's League Managers' Association on the impact of firings. The Guardian's Jonathan Wilson on how much we should take from Manchester City's form.
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