The Italian national soccer team played Sweden last night (Nov. 13), and lost both the game and a place in the World Cup. The match was its final chance to make the quadrennial tournament, and Italians didn’t take their team’s failure to qualify very well. Players cried on the field. Fans cried at home, or sat in disbelief, trying to understand how a team that only two editions ago won the cup could not even qualify for it.
Politicians weighed in, too: the leader of the xenophobic Northern League, Matteo Salvini, took it as an opportunity to blame the supposed “invasion” of foreign players in Italy’s soccer, which left Italian players under-supported. Many more saw in this a sign of the times: Italy—its economy, society, culture and, yes, soccer—has seen better ones.
It is indeed a bitter pill to swallow: For the first time since 1958, the Italian national soccer team, which holds four world cup titles, will watch the World Cup from Italy next year, rather than live it, in Russia.
But here’s a bit of good news: Italy’s national soccer team is not out of the World Cup. Only the male team is.
Enter Le Azzurre: The female Italian soccer team, which is currently chasing its own spot in the women’s 2019 World Cup, which will be played in France. The team has only taken part to the world cup since 1991, and has failed to qualify for the finals for the past several editions. But so far this year, its prospects are looking good: It has won all three games it has played so far and is on top of its group, along with Belgium.
Its next game, against Portugal, is scheduled for Nov. 28 (link in Italian). Now, with the boys out of the way, Italian soccer fans can freely direct their energies toward the women’s team. After all, they’ve got more games to play.
Correction [Nov. 14]: An earlier version of this post said the 2018 men’s World Cup will be played in Qatar. The 2022 World Cup will be played in the Arab country.