It is official. Italy will miss a World Cup finals tournament for the first time since 1958 having failed to qualify for Russia 2018.
The Azzurri only managed to finish second in their qualifying group, which meant they had to play a two-legged, do or die play-off match against Sweden.
They were beaten 1-0 on aggregate, which means the Swedes will be turning out in Russia while Gian Piero Ventura and his Italy players watch the tournament on television.
Unfortunately for Italy, their chances of reaching the World Cup were handed a major blow back when the qualifying groups were drawn in July 2015. FIFA’s world rankings placed Italy in 17th, which meant they were seeded into Pot 2 and would be sure to draw one of the heavyweights of European football.
Germany, Belgium, Portugal and Spain were all in Pot 1, though they were also joined by the Netherlands and Wales – who both failed to qualify – as well as, for some reason, Romania.
In the end, Italy were drawn with Spain in Group G, and ended up finishing second to Julen Lopetegui’s side.
It was a strange twist of fate that meant Italy were ranked 17th, and drawn in Pot 2, when the draw was made.
Spain’s neighbours Portugal were the reason for their low ranking… and it was one Portuguese cult hero in particular who was responsible for Italy’s slide.
Just over a year before scoring the winning goal in the Euro 2016 final, Eder – whose club career can be described as, at best, below average – scored his first ever international goal to beat Italy 1-0 in Switzerland.
It was a pretty fantastic team goal from Portugal, and the 1-0 defeat dropped Italy down a few places in the FIFA World Rankings – and that was all it took to see them seeded in Pot 2.
So it was all down to Eder.
The man whose club career has amounted to so little made history for his own country with that goal against France, and has now played an important role in the history of another country.
You can watch Eder’s goal, scored against Italy in 2015, below…