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'Italy will hopefully win the World Cup' - Mancini optimistic as Azzurri enter play-offs

07:42 GMT 16/11/2021
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The Euro 2020 winners will have to take the long route to the tournament in Qatar next year after drawing 0-0 with Northern Ireland on Monday

Roberto Mancini believes Italy can still win the 2022 World Cup despite their failure to win their qualifying group.

The Azzurri finished second in Group C after drawing 0-0 with Northern Ireland in the final game of the campaign on Monday.

Italy will have to navigate the play-offs if they are to qualify for the tournament in Qatar next year, but Mancini believes they should not be written off as candidates to win the world crown.

What has been said?

“We can’t do anything about it now, we have this game in March and will try to give our best,” Mancini told RAI Sport, referring to the play-offs.

“At the moment, we are struggling to score goals, despite dominating possession and the initiative. Northern Ireland put everyone in defence and we struggle to break sides like that down.

“It’s a pity, because we should’ve sealed the group long before it came to this. We just need to rediscover what characterised us up until today. We had two missed penalties in the decisive matches, so that shows we had the chances to win.”

“Now we prepare for March and we go into the play-offs confident. We’ll book our place in the World Cup in March and hopefully win the tournament too.”

What next for Italy?

Italy will enter the European World Cup play-offs in late-March to determine their fate.

The competition will feature 10 group runners up joined by the two best group winners from the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League that have neither qualified already nor entered the playoffs already as group runners up.

Three nations will survive the 12-team play-off to reach Qatar.

The bigger picture

Italy are just four months removed from their Euro 2020 triumph that served as definitive redemption for missing the 2018 World Cup, but their stumbles in qualifying this autumn have tempered the mood around Roberto Mancini’s side.

The Azzurri attack has lost its high-flying summer identity - after scoring almost two goals per match at the Euros, they’ve been essentially silenced in qualifying outside of an expected 5-0 drubbing of Lithuania.

They now face the same fate as 2018 if they falter in the play-off, and such a failure would represent the first time they’ve ever failed to reach World Cup tournaments in consecutive cycles.

Italy would welcome qualification via the play-off the same way as they would through their UEFA group.

“No, [no shame],” Mancini said before the Northern Ireland match. “The important thing is to reach the World Cup, it doesn’t matter how we get there.”

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