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World Cup Qualifiers: ‘ApoCalýpse NOw’ for Italy

AFP
Published : Nov 15, 2017, 6:23 am IST
Updated : Nov 15, 2017, 6:25 am IST

Azzurri to miss first Cup since 1958 as Sweden hold on for 1-0 aggregate scoreline.

Italy’s players react after being knocked out of the World Cup race by Sweden in their play-off second leg qualifier at San Siro Stadium in Milan on Monday. Sweden went through with a 1-0 aggregate score after the Milan game ended goalless. (Photo: AP)
 Italy’s players react after being knocked out of the World Cup race by Sweden in their play-off second leg qualifier at San Siro Stadium in Milan on Monday. Sweden went through with a 1-0 aggregate score after the Milan game ended goalless. (Photo: AP)

Milan: A tearful Gianluigi Buffon quit international football as four-time champions Italy sensationally missed out on their first World Cup finals in 60 years after a playoff defeat to Sweden on Monday.

Coach Gian Piero Ventura also said he would consider his future after the Azzuri drew 0-0 in the second leg of their tie with Sweden, who qualified 1-0 on aggregate. Italian press called it an “apocalypse” for the team, who last failed to qualify for the 1958 World Cup and have played every other edition apart from the inaugural tournament in 1930.

Ventura made no announcement about his position despite failing to lead the 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006 winners to their 19th World Cup.

The former Torino coach said he would first talk to the Italian federation president before making a decision on his future.

“Resign? I don’t know. I have to evaluate an infinity of things. I have not yet spoken to the president. It doesn’t depend on me, I’m not in the state of mind to face this question. It’s a very heavy result to bear, because I was absolutely convinced that we had this ferocious desire to overcome the obstacle,” said Ventura.

The game witnessed a generational shift for Italy, with Buffon and fellow 2006 veterans Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi all quitting the team, while Giorgio Chiellini also hung up his Azzurri jersey.

“The era of four or five veterans comes to a close, the one of the hungry young players coming through begins and that’s how it should be,” said Ventura, who took over from Chelsea coach Antonio Conte in 2016 with a contract until June 2020.

Italy dominated possession but struggled to create enough chances, as Sweden secured a first appearance at the finals since 2006 thanks to Jakob Johansson’s first-leg strike.

Tags: gianluigi buffon, international football