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Italy back in chaos: What if the Euro 2020 triumph was a mirage...?

In less than nine months, the Italian national team have gone from heaven to hell and fans have gone from celebrating on the packed Rome streets to struggling to understand what happened at the stands of Stadio Renzo Barbera on Thursday evening.

Italy lost 1-0 to North Macedonia in the World Cup playoffs and will now miss out on appearing in Qatar, less than a year after winning the 2020 European Championship.

"If the victory of the European Championship in July was my greatest joy, this is without a doubt the main disappointment," said Italy boss Roberto Mancini after the game.

"Sometimes incredible things happen in football, maybe we should not even have been here."

The Azzurri have failed to qualify for a World Cup for the second time in a row, which comes after being knocked out of the group stage in the 2014 and 2010 tournaments in Brazil and South Africa respectively. Prior to that, in 2006, Italy reached the final and then went on to lift the famous trophy.

With their win on Thursday night, North Macedonia have qualified for the final of the playoffs mini tournament after turning one of their four shots into a goal in the 92nd minute, which saw them grab a 1-0 victory away at Italy, who registered 32 attempts at goal.

Struggling after Euro 2020

Jorginho missed a decisive penalty against Switzerland in the World Cup qualifiers and that meant Italy failed to secure top spot in Group C, while two months earlier Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer denied him from the spot.

"Missed penalties? It's honestly difficult," said Jorginho.

"It hurts when I think about it. I'll think about it all my life."

However, it's not just Jorginho's fault, as Italy dropped two points in Florence against Bulgaria in the group stage, with the confidence of the Euro 2020 champions declining after the high of last summer.

Meanwhile, Lorenzo Insigne has struggled this season, while Nicolo Barella has failed to rediscover his form and Leonardo Spinazzola is still sidelined after picking up a serious injury at Euro 2020.

What is happening in Serie A?

Currently, there are no Italian teams in the Champions League quarter-finals, despite the spectacle in Serie A having improved this season.

Following the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, Italian football has offered just a few glimpses of what it used to be, with Inter's treble in 2010, Juventus' lost Champions League finals and Roma reaching the semi-finals.

The Azzurri lost to Spain in the 2012 European Championship final and won Euro 2020, but they have missed out on two World Cups, with this being just the third time they have failed to qualify after Sweden 1958.

"We cannot equate ourselves with France, Germany or England," said a journalist on Italian TV.

"Our stars, apart from Jorginho or [Marco] Verratti, play at Sassuolo."

Meanwhile, the Italian Football Federation accused the Serie A clubs for not postponing the last matchday to offer Mancini more time to prepare for the game.

The Juventus bloc no longer exists in the team, while neither AC Milan nor Inter have multiple representatives in the team, with three of the players who are in the squad playing their football at Sassuolo.

"I no longer have players from Serie A to call up for the U21s," said coach Paolo Nicolato.

"Soon I will be calling them up from [Italian football's third tier] Serie C."

Will Mancini stay?

Italy don't have many options in the event they decide to part ways with Mancini. Carlo Ancelotti is in charge of Real Madrid, Antonio Conte is at Tottenham Hotspur and Massimiliano Allegri is coaching Juventus.

Meanwhile, Shakhtar Donetsk coach Roberto De Zerbi and Fiorentina tactician Vincenzo Italiano would need time to instil their philosophy into the team.

"I hope that Mancini will continue with us," declared Italian Football Federation president Gabriele Gravina after the match against North Macedonia.

"He has a project-level commitment [until 2026]."

The next few hours will be decisive with regard to Mancini's future after registering only his second loss in 42 games as the national team's coach.

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