Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said that Italian soccer has reached an “historic low” this week after two of Serie A’s three entrants in the UEFA Champions League -- Napoli and Juventus -- crashed out of the competition as the group stage came to a close on Wednesday. AC Milan will be the Italian league’s sole representative in the UCL Round of 16, but few would give the Rossoneri, currently ninth in the Serie A table, a realistic chance of lifting Europe’s top prize in May.
While Juve and Napoli’s exits both came down to special circumstances -- Juve lost its final game to Galatasaray on a field destroyed by a blizzard and Napoli exited on goal differential after finishing Group F tied with Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal with 12 points apiece -- Prandelli believes Italian soccer is facing serious issues.
"The numbers say that our soccer has reached a historic low," the Italian national team coach said. "I'm disappointed because I expected them all to go through. It would have been important, also in view of the World Cup, for the self-confidence of the players.” He added: “It's a shame and there was a lot of bad luck, but we need to reflect on the quality of our football. We're no longer the best and we've got to accept it." Indeed: for the first time since 1999, Italy will have just one team in the UCL Round of 16.