Graham Potter opted for Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of recent arrivals Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana as Chelsea switched to 4-3-3 in their new head coach's first game.

The Blues operated in a 3-4-3 system for most of Thomas Tuchel's tenure, but the German was dismissed after an underwhelming start to the season.

Potter was convinced to leave Brighton and Hove Albion for Stamford Bridge and made three changes ahead of his first game at home to Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Thiago Silva returned to the starting line-up, with club captain Azpilicueta partnering the centre-back as Potter decided to leave out Koulibaly and Fofana, who were recruited from Napoli and Leicester City respectively.

Jorginho came in to the midfield trio, along with Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount, while former Brighton defender Marc Cucurella replaced Ben Chilwell at left-back.

Chelsea continued with the same front three, though – Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top, the latter making his home debut for the Blues.

The Blues lost 1-0 at Dinamo Zagreb in their Group E opener, which was Tuchel's 100th game in charge, and also his last.

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho says the dismissal of Thomas Tuchel came as a "surprise", revealing the Blues' players feel partly responsible for his exit.

The German coach was axed last week in the aftermath of a surprise defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League, which followed on from Premier League losses against Southampton and Leeds United during an underwhelming start to the season.

Chelsea moved quickly to appoint Graham Potter as Tuchel's successor at Stamford Bridge, with their first game under his guidance coming on Wednesday against Salzburg.

With last week's Premier League action postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Tuesday's pre-match news conference represented the first opportunity for questions on the managerial change.

Jorginho conceded it is something he has become accustomed to, with Potter the fourth Chelsea boss he has worked under, but says he was caught off guard by the latest switch.

"It's happening a lot, as everyone knows. We're adapting to the new coach, we're very excited to work with him and his staff. It's been quite good the first few days," he said.

"Of course, we had a great time with Thomas, we appreciate everything he did for us, for the club, for the fans, now we have a new challenge to look forward to and we're very excited.

"It was a surprise for everyone. What has been said between the players will stay there, sorry.

"There's always talking around what has happened, but now we have games coming and life is quick, so we don't have much time to stay and think. We need to concentrate on what we need to do."

Jorginho was then asked about Tuchel's repeated criticism of the team in the build-up to his departure, and the midfielder admitted there is work to do.

"It was his feeling, he said that to us as well. We tried to do what we could, we tried to do our best, it's what we do," he added.

"Unfortunately, it wasn't working anymore and the challenge now is to rebuild the confidence because Chelsea are a big club, we have a lot of work to do and to do that we need to work with everyone moving in the same direction.

"Of course, we feel responsible, we were a team, it's not one person who is responsible for what happened, everyone is responsible."

Jorginho's first-half penalty got Chelsea's Premier League campaign off to a winning start, as Thomas Tuchel's men overcame a stubborn Everton to claim a 1-0 victory at Goodison Park.

Having been left without a striker through Dominic Calvert-Lewin's knee injury and Salomon Rondon's suspension, Frank Lampard's hosts sat deep and successfully frustrated Chelsea early on.

But Everton's resistance was finally broken when Jorginho converted from the spot on the stroke of half-time, and the Toffees were unable to find a way past Edouard Mendy despite an improved showing after the break.

That meant Chelsea won their Premier League opener for a third consecutive season despite failing to produce a fluid performance on Merseyside.

Everton suffered an early blow when Ben Godfrey was carried off with a serious lower-leg injury, but they forced Mendy into the first meaningful save through James Tarkowski's 24th-minute header.

Chelsea debutant Raheem Sterling was denied by the offside flag 42 minutes in, having stabbed home after Jordan Pickford fumbled N'Golo Kante's effort, but Chelsea made their dominance count nine minutes into a lengthy bout of stoppage time. 

Abdoulaye Doucoure hauled Ben Chilwell down as the wing-back burst into the area, allowing Jorginho to convert neatly into the bottom-left corner as Pickford went the wrong way.

Everton found Mendy in inspired form as they looked to respond after the break, with the Senegal stopper denying both Demarai Gray and Doucoure with strong saves.

Ten minutes of additional time were signalled after a medical emergency in the crowd required a brief stoppage, but Chelsea's experienced rear-guard stood firm.

What does it mean? Blues make another strong start 

Tuchel repeatedly cut a frustrated figure throughout Chelsea's less-than-ideal pre-season campaign, but the Blues, so often strong starters, produced a professional performance to win their Premier League opener.

Chelsea have now started 20 of their 31 Premier League campaigns with a win (drawn six, lost five), while Everton have suffered their first opening-day defeat since going down to Queens Park Rangers in 2011.

Everton pay the penalty as Jorginho converts

Jorginho was thwarted by Pickford during Italy's penalty shoot-out win over England in the Euro 2020 final, but the 30-year-old kept his nerve to send the goalkeeper the wrong way this time around.

Eighteen of his 20 Premier League goals have now come from the spot, the highest percentage (90 per cent) among players to have scored at least 10 goals in the competition, while Chelsea's tally of 139 successful penalties is the most in the division's history.

Chelsea put Goodison Park blues behind them

Chelsea's victory saw them end a run of four successive defeats at Everton, which had been their longest active losing streak against another Premier League side.

The Toffees, meanwhile, fell to just their second defeat in seven home league outings, having relied on their Goodison Park performances to ensure survival last term.

What's next?

Chelsea face London rivals Tottenham at Stamford Bridge in their next Premier League outing next Sunday, while Everton travel to Aston Villa a day earlier.

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho has said he would "like to stay" at Stamford Bridge, though admitted he does not know what his long-term future holds.

The Italy international has just one year remaining on his current deal at the club, and reports have linked him with a return to Serie A.

Jorginho – who joined Chelsea from Napoli in 2018 – made 47 appearances in all competitions for Thomas Tuchel's men in 2021-22, scoring nine goals, all of which were penalties, and addressed his future during pre-season preparations in Los Angeles.

"Of course, I love Chelsea. I feel very well here and of course, I'd like to stay," he said. "But you know, there is a lot going on and we don't know.

"I am here now, I have a contract and I love to be here. I feel very well here, so I don't think about moving anywhere.

"For many years now [there has been speculation about his future]. Every single year. I don't think like this. I just think about where I am and focus 100 per cent.

"I'm at Chelsea and I think about Chelsea 100 per cent."

Of Chelsea players, only Thiago Silva (68) made more interceptions than Jorginho's 65 in all competitions last season.

The 30-year-old has won a Europa League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup with the London club. He addressed his future ahead of the 2022-23 season, when he intends to challenge for silverware again.

"The motivation is that I do what I love," he added. "This was my dream when I was a kid.

"I dreamt that I could win – and so if I win the same title it is still special. I look at my medals every day and love them. It's why I want to win more.

"One of the [motivations is to win the Premier League], I still have a few left. I need to work really hard to achieve those trophies and that is what I do.

"What really counts is the results at the end of the season. So I prefer to talk at the end of the season about what we've done."

Tick-tock, tick-tock. It appears time will finally run out on Sunday and the Kylian Mbappe transfer saga will finally be at its end.

Paris Saint-Germain have experienced another monumental blow this season with another cruel elimination in the Champions League and Real Madrid are waiting in the wings.

According to reports, the 23-year-old will finally announce his decision on Sunday.

TOP STORY – MBAPPE TO CONFIRM DECISION ON SUNDAY  

Kylian Mbappe will announce whether he will play for Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid on Sunday, according to L'Equipe.

The Parisian has never hidden his admiration for LeBron James and appears set to mimic his 'The Decision' announcement from 2010.

What is for certain according to reports, Mbappe is intent on announcing the decision before the France national team meets up for camp in Clairefontaine on May 28.

While it has been recently reported a move to Real Madrid seems likelier, talks are still ongoing according to the L'Equipe report, with PSG aiming to scupper a potential move at the last minute.

ROUND-UP

– Meanwhile, France team-mate and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba had agreed personal terms with Manchester City, according to the Times, but backed out in fear of fan backlash and now appears likely to move abroad.

– Along with Pogba, Juventus are also hoping to further bolster their midfield stocks and sign Chelsea midfielder Jorginho, the Gazzetta dello Sport reports.

– Diario AS is reporting Paulo Dybala has ruled out a move to Tottenham once his contract with Juve expires at the end of the season.

– Kalidou Koulibaly has emerged as a target for Barcelona, who would be willing to add Miralem Pjanic as part of a package deal for Napoli, per Fichajes.

Real Madrid have reportedly made Chelsea's Reece James their primary transfer target ahead of next season.

Despite his time on the pitch being limited by injuries, the 22-year-old right-back has been a potent force going forwards this season, contributing five goals and six assists in 22 Premier League fixtures.

While Chelsea will likely do all they can to hold on to their homegrown England international, Madrid have had plenty of opportunities to scout the man top of their wish-list as he played all 210 minutes across their two Champions League legs, with the second going to extra-time.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MAKE JAMES A PRIORITY

Todofichajes is reporting Los Blancos have identified right-back as a position of weakness, spelling bad news for incumbent Dani Carvajal.

Madrid, who won LaLiga on Saturday, are said to have assessed other options at the position, such as Sporting CP's Pedro Porro, but ultimately landed on James after getting an up-close look at him in the Champions League.

James still has three years remaining on his contract, and 90min is reporting a revamped new deal is one of Chelsea's top priorities once the sale of the club is complete. He is expected to fetch a transfer fee of at least €60million.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Juventus in the upcoming window, according to TEAMtalk.

- The Daily Mail is reporting Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans would prefer a move to Spain if he leaves the club, with Madrid said to have a strong interest.

- According to Birmingham Live, Manchester United sent a senior scout to watch Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Juve are interested in bringing Chelsea midfielder Jorginho back to Italy before his contract expires, per Todofichajes.

- Fabrizio Romano is reporting Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso is keen to return to Spain, and Barcelona have made contact. 

- Romano also claims that Chelsea are still eager to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. The France defender has an €80m release clause.

Jorginho says Antonio Rudiger will be a big loss for Chelsea as Real Madrid reportedly close in on a deal for the centre-back.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel revealed following Sunday's late win over West Ham that Rudiger intends to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Tuchel suggested that Rudiger's decision was influenced by the financial restrictions imposed on Chelsea while a new owner to succeed Roman Abramovich is being sought.

According to widespread reports on Tuesday, Madrid have had no such problem agreeing terms with Rudiger and an announcement is expected to be made imminently.

The Germany international has spent five seasons at Stamford Bridge and Jorginho admits his team-mate's absence will be felt both on the pitch and off it.

"He's been here a long time so if he leaves then we're going to miss him," he told Sky Sports News. "He's a big personality and he's helped us a lot. 

"We've had amazing times here; he's a good friend of mine and of course if he leaves everyone at the club will miss him, not just me."

Asked what he will miss the most about Rudiger, Jorginho said: "His craziness. He makes me laugh a lot; all of his jokes and laughs we've had together – that's the nice part."

Rudiger has started 47 games this season, which is five more than any other Chelsea player, with Jorginho sixth on that list (42 appearances).

 

Indeed, no player from a club in Europe's top five leagues has started more matches in 2021-22 when taking all competitions into account.

Rudiger played no part in Chelsea's victory over West Ham last time out, however, a game in which Jorginho missed a penalty before Christian Pulisic snatched a late victory.

Jorginho was criticised for his spot-kick style after sending his effort straight at goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, but the midfielder suggested VAR was partly to blame for the miss.

"This sort of pressure, especially in games like this when you need to win and it's last minute, you try to isolate your mind from all that pressure even though it's hard," he said. 

"Then you have the VAR so it takes longer, it's harder to keep focus. 

"What you need to do and what I try to do is I try to isolate my mind of all this pressure, and unfortunately this time it didn't work."

Prior to his penalty miss against West Ham, Jorginho had converted each of his last 13 for Chelsea (excluding shoot-outs) in a run stretching back to Boxing Day 2020.

"When you have that little moment of doubt that's usually when you make the mistake," the Italy international added. "Maybe I had too much time to think about it, I don't know.

"This time it went like that and I'm sorry. I feel bad because it's not a nice feeling."

Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that Chelsea will be unable to keep hold of Antonio Rudiger, who has asked to leave the club.

Reports in the media this week claimed that Rudiger – whose contract expires at the end of the season – had turned down the offer of a new deal and had decided to leave for pastures new.

Tuchel has now revealed those reports were correct. Real Madrid, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are among the clubs said to have an interest in the centre-back.

And, due to the sanctions imposed on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich by the United Kingdom government in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Tuchel explained that the club have been unable to up their offer.

Rudiger sat out Chelsea's 1-0 win over West Ham on Sunday due to injury and after the match, Tuchel told Sky Sports: "The situation is that he wants to leave the club. He informed me of this in a private talk.

"We gave everything – me and the club – but we could not fight anymore because of the sanctions. Without the sanctions, we would at least be able to carry on fighting, but our hands are tied. We don't take it personally. It is his decision.

"He is a key figure and will stay that way until the end of the season. But it is disappointing. We will miss him a lot.

"He gives courage in the dressing room. The kind everyone is afraid of, but the kind to play 50-55 games at an outstanding level. He [has been] a top defender in the last one and a half years for me. We then need to find another solution."

Christian Pulisic's last-minute strike snatched a victory for Chelsea against West Ham, as they snapped a two-game losing streak at Stamford Bridge.

It was another below-par performance from the Blues, however, with Jorginho seeing a terrible penalty saved just before Pulisic scored the winner.

"It feels like a giant step. We have some games in hand. It was necessary and I am glad," said Tuchel, whose side are now five points clear of fourth-placed Arsenal, with a trip to Old Trafford coming up on Thursday.

"The atmosphere is like this in the dressing room. We also deserved a bit of luck after the last results and how they were created here in our stadium.

"A big game now coming in Manchester. A good feeling with a late win. It lifts everybody's mood."

Jorginho had converted each of his last 13 penalties for Chelsea (excluding in shoot-outs), with this being his first failure to score from the spot for the Blues since Boxing Day 2020 versus Arsenal, though got his attempt all wrong this time around.

"It works for us normally 100 per cent," said Tuchel. "It can happen. Hopefully, it is an unusual thing. He is disappointed but happy we could turn it around."

Romelu Lukaku can take comfort from Timo Werner's return to form and the Belgium star just needs "one spark" to find his confidence again, according to Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Werner has come under regular scrutiny following his £45million (€50m) move to Stamford Bridge from RB Leipzig in June 2020.

The Germany international scored six goals in 35 appearances in his debut Premier League campaign and has found the net on just three occasions in the top flight this season.

However, two of those strikes came in the 6-0 rout of Southampton in his last league game, as many goals as he had managed in his previous 27 appearances in the Premier League. Werner also scored at Real Madrid in the Champions League and was influential in the FA Cup semi-final win over Crystal Palace.

Lukaku has endured similar struggles since his big-money return to Chelsea from Inter at the start of the season, last scoring in the league in December against Brighton and Hove Albion.

The former Manchester United man has been hampered by injuries as well, and although he missed glorious opportunities against Madrid and Palace on his return, Tuchel believes he will soon find his form.

"I don't think he needs inspiration as such, but he needs that one moment, that one spark," Tuchel said on Tuesday when asked if Lukaku could learn from Werner.

"He maybe would've been a natural starter against Crystal Palace given the minutes Kai [Havertz] has played and the matches recently, but after a period of injury he lacked the fitness for matches.

"I don't point the finger at him, it's just a fact.

"Compare the difference in Brentford and Southampton, and the two legs against Real Madrid, you see the effort we put into become a winning team and this is what we need.

"Romelu should've had a goal against Real Madrid and Crystal Palace, but if he plays we need all that he has."

Reece James is another who has suffered with injury problems throughout the campaign, but he has shown encouraging form in recent weeks.

Tuchel acknowledged the brilliance of the England international, even if his adaptability causes many a selection headache whether to play him as a right wing-back or third centre-back.

"I think the back three is a little less demanding physically in terms of the wing-back position given he comes from a long injury," the German added on James.

"It is a bit of an advantage to have him in the back three because it is less demanding physically. He can play both positions brilliantly and we can only pick him once, so we have to decide."

Meanwhile, Tuchel expressed his gratitude to the work of Jorginho, who started against Palace on Sunday after being rested for two league games with Southampton and Brentford.

"He sacrificed for the team and I think you see it now," he said of the Italy midfielder. 

"There are so many demands, and after a big success, like winning the Euros, he felt the pressure. This is normal and sometimes after big success it is difficult to keep on going and going.

"He put the responsibility on his shoulders and always does. That is why I love him. We see we overused him and I feel we see the consequences of that. He is not at his freshest moment at the minute."

Lautaro Martinez was very close to joining Barcelona from Inter Milan two years ago.

The Blaugrana and the Argentina international had reached a personal agreement, but the financial consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered any possibility for the former to make any transfer happen.

As ever, though, circumstances in football change and according to reports, they have changed in a way that would allow Barca to finally get the Martinez deal over the line.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA IN FRAME FOR LAUTARO

Barcelona are back in the running to sign Inter's Lautaro Martinez, according to reports from Sport.

The 24-year-old is increasingly likely to leave the reigning Serie A champions, but it appears the club would be willing to lower their asking price in exchange for players as part of a package deal.

Inter have shown interest in Miralem Pjanic and Memphis Depay, two players who appear to be surplus to requirements in a rebuild under Xavi at the Catalan giants.

Martinez, who has provided 15 goals and three assists in 28 league appearances this season, is seen as a more affordable alternative to Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski.

 

ROUND-UP

– Liverpool are eyeing Aberdeen right-back Calvin Ramsey to provide depth for Trent Alexander-Arnold, the Sun reports.

Paris Saint-Germain are ready to part ways with Mauricio Pochettino in order to hire Zinedine Zidane as their head coach, per Le Parisien.

– Corriere dello Sport is reporting Roma would consider an offer of €60million (£49.6m) for highly-rated 22-year-old Nicolo Zaniolo, as interest from Serie A and Premier League clubs looms.

– Juventus are prepared to offer for Chelsea's Jorginho, with the Turin giants seeking to bolster their midfield next season, according to Tuttosport.

– Chelsea are willing to let 28-year-old striker Romelu Lukaku go with Inter and PSG interested, per 90Min.

After excelling in the Champions League for Benfica, Uruguay striker Darwin Nunez has attracted interest from Newcastle United.

Darwin, who turns 23 in June, has scored 24 goals in 24 Primeira Liga games, as well as six goals in 10 Champions League appearances. No Benfica player has ever scored more goals in a single Champions League campaign.

While some of the world's biggest clubs – including Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United – are hoping to sign the breakout star, they will have to contend with an aggressive offer to bring him to St James' Park.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE MAKE £50M BID FOR DARWIN

Newcastle have been linked with all kinds of big-name signings for the upcoming transfer window, but Footmercato is reporting that they have made a £50million bid for Darwin in an effort to fend off the challenge of rival clubs.

At such a young age, he could be the kind of marquee signing the new Newcastle board can build their future side around as they also chase more experienced players, such as Christian Eriksen from Brentford on a free transfer.

The Footmercato report also mentions that if Darwin is to leave, Benfica plan to replace him with Petar Musa, who is on loan at Boavista from Slavia Prague.

 

ROUND-UP

– 90min is reporting Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri is very interested in reuniting with Jorginho, as he is unlikely to be offered a new contract at Chelsea beyond 2023.

– Erik ten Hag would like to bring Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni to Manchester United when he takes over as manager, according to ESPN.

Arsenal, Leeds United and Newcastle are set to compete for the signature of Hoffenheim's Florian Grillitsch when his contract expires after this season, per the Daily Mail.

– The Sun is reporting Kalvin Phillips will reject Manchester United's advances and sign a new deal with Leeds.

Burnley are targeting Sam Allardyce to take over as manager after the sacking of Sean Dyche, per The Sun.

Jesse Lingard's future with Manchester United is unclear.

The 29-year-old England international is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lingard had a brilliant loan spell at West Ham United last season but has remained out of favour at Old Trafford this term.

 

TOP STORY – ITALIAN OPTIONS FOR LINGARD

Lingard could reunite with Jose Mourinho at Roma, with the Italian club joining the race for the forward, according to the Mirror.

Lingard is being pursued by West Ham following his impressive loan spell, while Newcastle United are also interested in the 29-year-old.

Serie A clubs Milan and Juventus also have an interest in Lingard, with a move to Italy offering a lucrative alternative option.

English pair Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham have enjoyed productive spells at Roma, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is on loan from Arsenal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are moving on from their pursuit of Kylian Mbappe , who appears set to stay with Paris Saint-Germain, by turning their attention to landing Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, claims the Mirror.

- Inter will make a move to sign Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, following his August exit from the Italian champions, reports Football Insider. Lukaku previously expressed his regret at leaving Inter.

- The Sun claims that Arsenal and Tottenham will battle to sign Leicester City midfielder James Maddison who is rated at £60million and could be put up for sale.

- Danny Ings could be on his way out of Aston Villa as manager Steven Gerrard plans a clear-out, according to the Mirror.

- CBS Sports claims Liverpool and West Ham are no longer interested in Leicester City's Youri Tielemans, leaving the door open for Manchester United to land the midfielder.

- Juventus are circling for Chelsea midfielder Jorginho , reports Tutto Mercato.

Roberto Mancini has revealed the decision to release several senior Italy faces such as Jorginho is to help repay the efforts made between club and country.

The Chelsea midfielder, along with a clutch of other key players such as Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, have left the Azzurri camp ahead of Tuesday's clash with Turkey.

Defeat against North Macedonia last week left the Euro 2020 hopes' of reaching Qatar 2022 in tatters, ensuring they will miss a second successive World Cup.

With that in mind, Mancini looks set to field a more experimental side for a dead rubber against Turkey, who were also eliminated from the play-offs.

Speaking ahead of the match at Torku Arena, Mancini explained that it was on his orders that Jorginho and others departed early, stating that it was intended as a favour to their respective clubs.

"I forced them to leave," the manager sought to clarify in his pre-match press conference. "If I can do something for them and for the clubs, we do it.

"They would not have played. Some were not physically at their best. Some of them, I forced them to go.

"Chelsea sent us Jorginho three days earlier [and] did not let him play in the FA Cup. I sent [him] back home because [he] would not have played."

Jorginho has endured a tough few months in the Azzurri fold, with his crucial missed penalties against Switzerland in the group stage qualifiers effectively costing his side a straight passage to Qatar.

While Mancini added that neither Napoli forward Insigne or Lazio striker Immobile would have featured against Turkey, but still paid tribute to their contributions.

"Lorenzo had physical problems [and] Immobile would have gone to the stands," he stated.

"The boys in recent years have deserved a lot. There are special players here, a special group has been created."

Marco Verratti and Jorginho were among a group of six players to leave the Italy camp after their failure to qualify for the World Cup. 

Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Domenico Berardi and Gianluca Mancini also returned to their clubs ahead of schedule, with the latter two having sustained knocks. 

Italy coach Roberto Mancini is expected to ring the changes in a friendly against Turkey on Tuesday following the Azzurri's shock defeat to North Macedonia in a World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final on Thursday. 

The Euro 2020 champions' first ever home loss in World Cup qualifying meant they failed to reach successive finals for the first time in their history. 

Instead of taking on Portugal in the play-off final, Italy will depart for Konya on Monday. 

Jorginho admits his missed penalties earlier in the campaign will haunt him forever following Italy's failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

The Azzurri were crowned Euro 2020 champions just eight months ago after beating England in the final on penalties.

However, Roberto Mancini's side will not be at the World Cup later this year after they were stunned 1-0 by North Macedonia in the playoff semi-finals.

Although the hosts dominated proceedings in Palermo, Aleksandar Trajkovski struck in stoppage time to give the visitors a shock victory.

Having drawn four of their last five games, Italy had to settle for a playoff place after finishing two points behind Switzerland in Group C.

Among them was a 1-1 stalemate with the Swiss, during which Jorginho missed two penalties that would have seen the Azzurri displace their opponents in top spot.

And the Chelsea midfielder revealed his sense of responsibility for his nation’s subsequent failure to qualify.

"It is difficult to explain what happened," he told RAI Sport. "It hurts so much. I'll be honest, I am still incredulous. 

"I don't think we lacked creativity, as we always dominated matches and created so many chances. Unfortunately, we were unable to finish them off.

"We played good football, we won the European Championship last summer, but unfortunately in the last few games, we made small errors and were unable to recover from them. They made the difference.

"It hurts when I think about [the missed penalties], because I do still think about it, and it will haunt me for the rest of my life.

"Stepping up there twice and not being able to help your team and your country is something that I will carry with me forever, and it weighs on me.

"People say we need to lift our heads and carry on, but it's tough."

Meanwhile, team-mate Marco Verratti acknowledged that the reigning European champions were made to pay after failing to turn their superiority into goals.

"It is difficult to understand. I think we dominated this match, and we should've won. We had to win," the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder added.

"This is football, it is fundamental to be clinical and ruthless. It's just so difficult to explain. It was a nightmare.

"Looking around the locker room, we had the players to challenge for the tournament itself, yet here we are talking about a disaster. It's so tough to go from hero to zero.

"We experienced special times together, and I will always be proud of my team-mates. 

"We have to ask ourselves questions now. There's some bad luck, but you also need to make your own luck."

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