Belotti: ‘Italy forwards must take some of the blame’

Andrea Belotti believes Italy’s forwards ‘must take some of the blame’ for their failure to win the World Cup qualifying group, but also saw the players physically drained after the Euros.

The Azzurri had been a dominant force in this group and in general over the summer, winning UEFA EURO 2020 and setting a new all-time world unbeaten record of 37 international matches.

However, since the semi-final with Spain, they have won only two games within 90 minutes, drawing six and losing 2-1 to Spain in the Nations League.

They missed first place in the World Cup group after a 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland this evening, as Switzerland thrashed Bulgaria 4-0.

“There is great bitterness and disappointment, because we had qualification in our hands, but at times football can turn like that. It’s very disappointing,” Belotti told RAI Sport.

“We have to take some of the blame, not just today, but also the many chances we failed to convert against Switzerland. We had so many opportunities over the last few games and the ball just didn’t want to go in.

“Unfortunately, possession counts for little if the ball doesn’t go into the net.”

Torino striker Belotti inevitably looked at the forced changes in the Italy squad after losing 11 players due to injury for this match, including Ciro Immobile, Marco Verratti, Giorgio Chiellini and Lorenzo Pellegrini.

“It is largely a physical issue, in my view, as we had so many injuries and have been playing basically for two years non-stop. We had to make so many changes, losing players and calling others in. It’s a sign we need to recharge the batteries and be ready for March.

“The coach spoke to us, but the things we say in the dressing room should stay there. Our focus is already looking ahead to March.”

The route to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is trickier than in the 2018 edition, as there are 12 teams and only three will progress to the competition proper.