Gian Piero Ventura sacked by Italy following World Cup failure
Gian Piero Ventura has been sacked as coach of Italy after failing to guide them to next summer's World Cup, the Italian Football Federation has announced.
A 1-0 aggregate defeat to Sweden in a World Cup qualifying playoff saw the Azzurri miss out on a World Cup berth for the first time in 60 years, and Ventura has paid the price.
The former Torino coach has had his contract terminated following a meeting of Italian FA (FIGC) bosses on Wednesday, and Italy will now begin their search for a successor, with a friendly match against England at Wembley on March 27 their next fixture.
"During the course of a meeting called by FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio, an examination was launched following the failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018," a statement on the FIGC's website read. "As the first point on the day's agenda, Tavecchio announced that, as of today, Gian Piero Ventura is no longer the coach of the national team."
Ventura's record as Italy coach was 10 wins, four draws and three defeats in 17 matches, crucially losing 1-0 to Sweden in Solna on Friday night. The other two defeats were to Spain -- 3-0 during the World Cup qualifying campaign -- and 3-1 to France in his first game in charge, a friendly on Sept. 1, 2016.
His tenure ended under a cloud and amid rumours of unrest in the dressing room and a revolt of the senior players, who were unhappy with his tactics.
"Not going to Russia is a problem and we're not stupid enough not to realise that," Ansa reported Renzo Ulivieri, the president of the Italian Coaches' Association (AIAC), as saying prior to Wednesday's meeting in Rome. "In view of such a result, the whole system needs to be questioned. It would have been wrong [for Ventura] to resign in the heat of the moment -- it's always best to meet first."
Carlo Ancelotti has emerged as the favourite to replace Ventura, with the former AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich coach currently out of work after being sacked by the Bundesliga club last month.
"That would be the easiest solution, if it were possible," Ulivieri said. "But we do not necessarily have to pick a big name. I have the utmost respect for Carlo, but right now we cannot be forced into such a decision. We need to think about it hard and explore all the avenues."
Roberto Mancini, Massimiliano Allegri and Antonio Conte have also been touted as potential successors, although all are currently contracted to clubs and are not considered to be keen on coaching the national team, with Conte stating that he had missed the day-to-day running of a club during his two years as Italy coach between 2014 and 2016.
Qualifying for Euro 2020 will not begin until March 2019, giving the FIGC plenty of time to consider their options.
Prior to that, Italy will be involved in UEFA's new Nations League, with four fixtures to be played between September and November 2018.
Despite failing to qualify for the World Cup, the Azzurri have been placed in League A and will be drawn -- in January -- in a group together with two other nations from Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, France, England, Switzerland, Poland, Iceland, Croatia and Netherlands.
At Wednesday's meeting, Tavecchio refused to tender his own resignation.
"The president also informed the representatives of all [members], who duly took note, that he is not willing to resign so that he can assume the responsibility for presenting to the federation's advisors at their next meeting a series of proposals which the advisors will be called to give their opinion on," the FIGC's statement added.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.