Editorial: From Wembley to Wembley – The Tale of the Italy Rebirth That Never Was

When it comes to reaching Mount Everest only to slide toward the abyss almost immediately, no one does it more frequently and dramatically than the Italians. In every sport, all teams are bound to experience highs and lows. But in the Azzurri’s case, alternating between historical feats and colossal failures feels like an inevitable pattern, almost as if the team is locked in an infinite spiral. Between their glorious appearance at Wembley in July 2021 and their return to the glamorous stadium in October 2023 lies the story of an Italy rebirth that panned out as a false dawn.

On the 11th of July 2021, England were on the verge of ending a cup drought that has been haunting them for almost six decades. With the Euro 2020 final taking place at their most iconic stadium – the ground that witnessed their most glorious hour in the 1966 World Cup – Gareth Southgate and his men surely must have felt that they had a date with destiny.

Yet, the football gods refused to smile upon the Three Lions. Instead, another footballing calamity befell the nation that gave birth to the Beautiful Game only to repeatedly suffer the wrath of its creation.

When Italy Sacked London

When Luke Shaw scored the opener in the second minute, the delighted English crowd felt that the stars were finally lining up for a nation starving for triumphs. Nevertheless, Leonardo Bonucci and his favorite partner-in-crime Giorgio Chiellini had other plans in mind, dragging the Azzurri towards the finish line with sheer tenacity, pure determination and prolific gamesmanship, depriving England of a trophy they felt was theirs for the taking.

When Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli shared a tearful hug at the end of the Euro 2020 final, this iconic moment signaled the beginning of a new dawn for Italian football, a redemption for a nation that had been distraught by missing out on the 2018 World Cup.

Sadly, all the events that followed that unforgettable moment prove, without a shred of a doubt, that this was only an instant classic rather than a kickstart of a more prosperous epoch.

The False Dawn

Mancini, once hailed as the hero who restored the national team following the horrific reign of Giampiero Ventura, ended up falling into the same playoff trap. If Sweden was Ventura’s bane, North Macedonia was the unlikely villain in Mancini’s story, one that started with great promise, only to end in an equally miserable fashion, with the Azzurri shockingly missing out on the second World Cup for the second time on the trot.

So when Italy marched towards Wembley this week, looking to create another jubilous memory at the heart of London, there was hardly a trace of the team that clinched the European championship just over two years ago.

Chiellini and Bonucci are both gone while Mancini is now counting his millions in Saudi Arabia. But the most tragic departure is Vialli’s. Luca is now in a better place following a back-and-forth battle with cancer. Sadly, what remains from that glorious night in 2021 are the trophy in Rome (as the Italian fans in attendance cheekily reminded their English counterparts on Tuesday) and the joyous memories.

Spalletti’s Italy Fails To Replicate Wembley Success

To his credit, Luciano Spalletti is looking to usher in a new era built upon the shoulders of a new generation. Perhaps the new manager doesn’t have a choice anyway, with Chiellini, Bonucci, Jorginho, Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile no longer able to carry the torch.

While we expect the immensely-experienced tactician to work his magic sooner or later, his Wembley version seemed to be a mere shadow of the Italy side that broke English hearts a couple of years ago. On Tuesday, we saw a team with little Grinta, short on ideas and atrocious in defense. Gianluca Scamacca gave the visitors the lead, but they soon ran out of steam, failing to keep track of Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and especially Jude Bellingham.

So between the two aforementioned Wembley appearances, it feels as if Italy’s world has turned upside down. The resurging football giant that slew several top nations on the path towards Euro 2020 glory has been reduced to a mere memory, while the current version is unable to withstand a technically superior England side.

Familiar Italy Nightmare Looming on the Horizon

Once again, the Peninsula finds itself in an uncomfortable position with her worst nightmare staring her in the face: The playoffs.

In November, Italy will contend their last two group fixtures in the Euro 2024 qualifiers, including a decisive clash against Ukraine. If they fall short, they will have to resort to the playoffs to book their spot in the finals, and we all remember how their last two attempts panned out.

At the moment, Azzurri fan is even willing to contemplate a disastrous scenario where the reigning European champions fail to reach the upcoming tournament. This would be nothing short of a national disaster.

Therefore, let’s hope for the sake of our beloved Calcio that Spalletti manages to navigate the Italians towards Germany 2024 where their nostalgic memories are awaiting them, ones that include a notorious Marco Materazzi and his dirty tricks, an unsung Fabio Grosso who became a national hero, and of course Fabio Cannavaro lifting a certain golden trophy high the air.

Germany 2026 Calling

On German soil, the pressure would be monumental on the Azzurri, especially due to their status as defending champions. Nevertheless, the nation will be forgiving towards Gianluigi Donnarumma and company if the young group showcases signs of improvement, even if they return home empty-handed. At the moment, the Italians are craving for a steady (even if slow) project, one that suggests that their football is on the right path.

But knowing Italian football, controversial incidents will always be part of the recipe. These almost unavoidable events will often emerge onto the scene and derail the momentum of the national team, even if some of the most infamous scandals coincided with glorious events (1982 and 2006 World Cup triumphs).

So amidst all the uncertainty, it’s hard to predict how the national team will fare in the coming years, or even how long Spalletti will last in an environment that tends to push away rebellious and innovative managers.

Based on the team’s trend, the next time Italy arrive at Wembley, they might be the reigning world champions, a fallen giant, or perhaps even both. But one thing is for certain: Wherever the Azzurri take us, it will be a heck of a ride.

Follow us on Google News for more updates on Serie A and Italian football

One comment

  1. A draw would have been huge in London but all in all we still control our own destiny. A win against Macedonia and a draw against Ukraine qualifies Italy directly as second place in the group. If Italy beat Macedonia they only need a draw as the head to head record favors Italy from the prior meeting. Both matches are tricky and not a given but Italy must produce!!!

Comments are closed.