In a move which will surely have the fans in tears, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has announced that they will not renew the contract of the Italian national team until 2019.
The deal was agreed between the FIGC and the government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), but was never formally announced.
Now, however, the announcement has been made and a date has been set for the end of the current contract.
It will be announced in an address to the press on Friday.
This news comes just days after it was announced that the FIGS will not field a single player for the 2016 World Cup Qualifying campaign, despite having a record number of players available.
Italian national team coach Mauro Vegni is now the only official in charge of the squad.
And while the squad will continue to train and prepare, the FIGCs will be allowed to play their World Cup qualifiers without any restrictions.
“The FIGC decided to not renew our contract with the national team, on the basis that it will not meet the criteria of the FIFA World Ranking, because the current government does not have the capacity to guarantee the participation of the national teams in international competitions,” the FIGCA statement read.
Vegni, who is set to leave the national side after the end a year in charge, has been accused of not putting enough pressure on the squad to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.
He has previously spoken about the pressure he felt from his Italian supporters when they failed to qualify.
Despite his controversial departure from the squad, Vegni’s successor as head coach of the FIGs is Antonio Conte.
With the decision not to renew the contracts, the footballing body will now have to decide whether to continue with the current structure of the group stage and the semi-finals, or move forward with the next phase of the competition, which is likely to take place in October 2019.
“The decision of the football federation to not sign a contract with its national team and to not have a World Ranking was not taken lightly,” FSM head of communications Roberto Cervini said in a statement.
However, he added that the governing body has already been working closely with its counterparts in the European Union, including the FA, and “we believe it is the right and appropriate decision for the federation to proceed with the qualifiers in the same manner as they did last year”.
The FIGCs next international competition is the 2019 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Australia on March 5, 2020.
FIFA have previously said that a decision on whether or not to continue playing in this phase of qualifying would be made “in due course”.
As well as announcing the announcement of a date for the contract renewal, the news also has been confirmed by the FIGA’s president, Fabio Cattaneo, who said: “The announcement of the contract extension of the team is positive, and I hope it will pave the way for the national squad to continue their work in Brazil, where we are competing with a good group of players.”
“I am confident that we will achieve the best possible results in the qualifiers, in the 2019 tournament, and that the fans will enjoy our participation in the competition in Brazil,” Cattaneeo added.
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