by Calum Fisher
Gianluigi Buffon and fellow stars say goodbye as Italy miss out on first World Cup since 1958.
The four time World Cup winners missed out on the 2018 tournament in Russia next year a 1-0 aggregate lose to Sweden in Milan last night.
It marked the first time that the Azzurri had missed out on the competition since 1958 when the host nation were, ironically, Sweden.
A first leg goal in Stockholm from Jakob Johansson had given the Swedes a lead to take in to the second leg but it was expected that the Italians could overcome the defeat and progress to the World Cup finals next year.
In the end the Italians could not find a way to score and their players collapsed on to the ground at the full time whistle as the realisation of missing out on football’s premier international competition set in.
It was the end of an era for a group of Italian internationals that had won a combined 461 caps between them. Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Barzagli and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon all announced their retirement from international football last night. However, much of the attention was on Buffon in particular who was extremely emotional after the game.
Buffon, a legend of the game, said “It is upsetting that my last match decided we didn’t qualify for the World Cup .” He continued, “I’m sorry. Not for me but for Italy. We blew something that could have meant so much. The only regret is that it ended like this.”
Questions too will surround the future of Gian Piero Ventura, the national team manager, who waited until midnight to face the media and gave a brief press conference where he stated that he hadn’t quit yet but his future certainly hangs in the balance.
It is expected that Ventura will be dismissed this week with former AC Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti being the favourite to replace him with Roberto Mancini, Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri also being mentioned.