Canada’s Rise, Italy’s Downfall


LIFE is like a wagon wheel. Sometimes it is at the top, but then it can be at the bottom. Likewise with football. Canada, which had never been on the radar before, was suddenly able to qualify for the 2022 World Cup finals. On the other hand, Italy, who was so brilliant as European champions, failed to qualify for Qatar.

Canada became the talk because they could be the first country in North America and the Caribbean to win tickets to Qatar. They can become regional champions by outperforming World Cup subscriptions such as Mexico and the United States.

Whereas before, no one ever thought that Canada would be victorious because in that country football is not a popular sport. Young Canadians dream more of becoming ice hockey players than soccer players.

“Why am I playing in the national team? We will never be able to qualify for the World Cup either,” replied Canadian striker Alex Bunbury when asked by West Ham United coach Harry Redknapp ahead of the 1994 World Cup qualifiers.

Even if there are Canadian children playing soccer, it is more because of their personal desires. Don’t be surprised if Canada has never been able to build a strong national team.

Indeed, in the 1986 World Cup the team Maples Leaf qualify for the finals. British coach Tony Waiters was able to build a formidable Canadian rearguard team that was able to make it difficult for the opposing team to penetrate. However, in Mexico at that time, Canada was unable to compete with France, Hungary, and the Soviet Union so they were eliminated in the first round.

After that Canadian football even slumped due to the bribery scandal. Four Canadian players, Chris Chueden, Hector Marinaro, David Norman and Igor Vrablic, were involved in fixing the score during the Merlion Tournament in Singapore, two months after the 1986 World Cup.

The four players were punished by the Canadian Football Union for being deemed to have damaged the good name of their country’s football.

Canada is then better known as the land of women’s football. Canadian girls are even more cohesive in building a team and even managed to win a gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics football branch.

Alphonso Davies

The Canadian name began to gain attention again around 2019. The eyes of football lovers were attracted to the appearance of Bayern Munich left back Alphonso Davies. The son of immigrants from Liberia who was born in refugee camps in Ghana is able to show his qualities as a defender who has speed so he can be effective in defense, but is also strong in attack.

Davies was accidentally discovered by coach Hans-Dieter Flick at a time when Bayern were experiencing a player crisis. Injury two center-back Jerome Boateng and Niklas Sule at that time made the German giants have to do experiments. Left-back David Alaba was pulled into the middle to partner Javi Martinez and his position on the left was entrusted to Davies.

In his first appearance, the Canadian player was able to show an impressive game. Coach Hansi Flick also fell in love and put Davies as the main choice when compared to the more famous French player, Lucas Hernandez.

After that, people started talking about Canada. It turns out that there are a lot of young talent in Canada. One of them is Jonathan David, an immigrant from Haiti who moved to Ottawa from the United States when he was two years old.

Capital is what brought Canada up the journey to Qatar. Of the 14 matches in the CONCACAF zone, Canada recorded eight victories, including over the United States.

Only twice have they lost, namely to Costa Rica and Panama. The last defeat occurred after Canada made sure to qualify for Qatar ahead of Mexico because they were more productive in scoring goals.

“After the 4-0 win over Jamaica that ensured Canada’s qualification for Qatar, the players looked so emotional and so did I. If you look at the struggle and togetherness of the players both on and off the pitch, they deserve it,” said Bunbury.

Former Canadian player who once joined Borussia Moenchengladbach, Rob Friend, sees the achievements made by his younger brothers as ‘monster step‘. With the talent that the players have now and the maturity of playing for big clubs in Europe, Friend believes, Canada will be able to talk a lot in Qatar later.

“Canada which used to be considered a retard in football is now in the right direction. I don’t want to look back and talk about five or six years wasted. This is the best opportunity and now the whole world will be watching Canada,” said Friend.

Italy failed again

As Canada dissolves in joy, team Azurri drowned in sorrow. Coach Roberto Mancini couldn’t believe he saw the team he led win last year’s European Cup at Wembley Stadium, England, for the second time in a row failing to appear in the World Cup.

Four years ago, Italy was eliminated by losing to Sweden in the match play-off, while this time the ‘Blue Sky’ team was eliminated by the onion team, North Macedonia, 0-1. It hurts even more to lose in the semifinals play-off and the hopeless goal came 2 minutes after time injury time walk.

The Renzo-Barbera Stadium in Palermo, which was so lively, suddenly fell silent. Italy which 66% controlled the match at least 23 times tried to threaten the goal of North Macedonia. However, none of them could penetrate the goal.

In fact, once wing striker Alexander Trajkovski’s shot from outside the penalty box could not be caught by Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and the ball quickly penetrated the corner of the Italian goal. Team Azurri also ran out of time to pursue the opponent’s advantage and shattered the dream of the four-time world champion to be able to appear in Qatar.

It is unimaginable for another World Cup without Italy. However, after their success in the 2006 World Cup, the team Azurri seems to be in a descending chart. In the two 2010 and 2014 World Cups, Italy was unable to qualify from the first round. After failing to appear in the 2018 World Cup, this time Jorginho and his friends also failed to bring their country to play in the highest competition in the world.

A thorough evaluation needs to be done by Italy because 16 years is too long for them to be outside the elite ranks of world football. Moreover, football for Italian society is like religion. Italy is one of the mecca of football development in the world.

Like a year’s rain erased by a day’s rain, that’s the team’s journey Azurri. With the achievement of 37 times unbeaten in the hands of Mancini, Italy last year was brilliantly able to lift the European Cup at Wembley. When they later embarked on their journey to Qatar, the journey was smooth at first. Three consecutive wins signal that Italy will easily qualify for the finals.

However, their achievements suddenly plummeted. Four times Jorginho and his friends were forced to draw. Even twice experienced against Switzerland. In fact, when facing Switzerland, twice the team Azurri got two penalty kicks. It turned out that twice the golden opportunity failed to become a goal and Italy also failed to get a direct ticket to Qatar because they could not compete with Switzerland. The Italian wagon wheel is now under.