Italy: What Losing a Top Eight Seed Means for Their World Cup Hopes

Matteo BonettiContributor IOctober 16, 2013

NAPLES, ITALY - OCTOBER 15:  Mario Balotelli of Italy dejected during the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifier group B match between Italy and Armenia at Stadio San Paolo on October 15, 2013 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

A seemingly innocuous match against Armenia turned out to be the reason why Italy will not be in the top eight seeds for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

For the first time since 1978, Italy will have to play in a World Cup group as a second-tier nation, something that most Azzurri fans reading here won't remember.

Italy was penalized for two disappointing draws against Denmark and now Armenia, and despite their constant appearances in the World Cup, they have given their seed to a few teams that haven't qualified in the past decade.

Of course, facing Brazil, Argentina, or Spain in the same group right away could actually be a blessing in disguise for Cesare Prandelli's men.

The 2010 World Cup saw Italy draw the easiest group in their World Cup history when they were pitted against Paraguay, New Zealand, and Slovakia. What ensued became one of the biggest disappointments in recent memory as the side, led by Marcello Lippi, failed to get out of the group stage.

Alessandro Florenzi was one of the few bright spots for Italy against Armenia
Alessandro Florenzi was one of the few bright spots for Italy against ArmeniaClaudio Villa/Getty Images

The fact that Italy underperforms against weaker opposition and comes out with all guns blazing against the giants is a storyline which has been prevalent in every tournament they have been a part of.

Most recently in the Confederations Cup, Italy underwhelmed against Japan in the opening stages but went on to negate Spain's tiki-taka in a match that went to penalties.

Another example is their scoreline against minnow nations like San Marino, Malta, or the Faroe Islands. While other European giants often give these sides a beating past comprehension, scoring often in the double digits, Italy rarely squeaks out anything more than a 1-0 or 2-0 victory.

You could say that this comes from an engrained honor system in the Serie A, where running up the score is often frowned upon. Hardly do you see a side continuing to attack after taking a comfortable 3-0 or 4-0 lead against a weaker opponent.

Anyway, not getting too carried away, the main point is that not drawing a top-eight seed is a blessing in disguise for Italy. They could enter next year's World Cup as potential underdogs, meaning the players won't feel the same pressure on their shoulders as their 2010 counterparts did back when they were coming off that historic win four years prior.

Now, Prandelli will have to search for the right mix of players. In an interview he gave to the Gazzetta dello Sport, the disappointed coach said that he'll have to find the right mix of players with the right mental attitude and that domestic form doesn't often translate into national team performances.