Milan - A
tearful Gianluigi Buffon quit international football as four-time
champions Italy sensationally missed out on their first Soccer World Cup finals
in 60 years after a playoff defeat to Sweden.
Coach Gian Piero Ventura also said he would consider his future after
the Azzuri drew 0-0 on Monday in the second leg of their tie with
Sweden, who qualified 1-0 on aggregate.
Distraught Italian fans reacted with shock and disbelief while the
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.
"I'm not sorry for myself but all of Italian football, because we
failed at something which also means something on a social level," said
an emotional Buffon as he confirmed his retirement.
The 39-year-old goalkeeper, who lifted the 2006 World Cup in Germany,
who had been hoping to compete in a record sixth World Cup.
Buffon, who has 175 international caps, had already announced that the World Cup finals in Russia would be his last.
But 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," said Ventura. "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."
Italian fans were struggling to come to terms with the prospect of a World Cup without their national team.
"It is really very sad because watching the World Cup was something
that really brought us together as Italians," said recent graduate
Stefania Pusateri, heading for the exit after watching the match in a
"But what is sure is that the shock will be even worse for my father.
He is 54 years old and he has never had to go through something like
Another Rome resident Enrico Doddi summed up the national
disappointment, saying: "You cannot have a good World Cup without
The game at Milan's San Siro stadium 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 clear-cut
chances, as Sweden secured a first appearance at the finals since 2006
courtesy of Jakob Johansson's first-leg strike in Stockholm.
Ventura had made
changes from Friday's defeat with Brazil-born Jorginho making his Italy
debut and Alessandro Florenzi and Manolo Gabbiadini also handed starts,
although Napoli's in-form winger Lorenzo Insigne was again left on the
As the clock ticked down, De Rossi was asked by Ventura to warm up but he pointed at Insigne instead.
"I just said we were near the end and had to win, so send the
strikers to warm up," said De Rossi. "I pointed to Insigne too. I just
thought perhaps it was better that Insigne come on instead."
Buffon even came up for two corners in a final desperate gamble but
Italy fell desperately short, leading to damning headlines in the
"Italy, this is the apocalypse," ran a headline on the website of sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Wasted chances, a bit of bad luck but zero goals in 180 minutes against the Swedes, who will go to Russia," Gazzetta commented.
Corriere dello Sport, said it will be painful for the country to be
on the sidelines when the World Cup kicks off in Russia in June.
"It is an intolerable football shame, an indelible stain," the newspaper said.
"It is over. Apocalypse, tragedy, catastrophe."
The 29 nations that have already booked their place for the 2018 Soccer World Cup in Russia, after Sweden qualified on Monday:
Europe: Belgium, England, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Russia (as
hosts), Serbia, Spain, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Croatia, Sweden
Africa: Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia
Asia: Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea
North, Central America and Caribbean: Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama
South America: Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia
The three remaining places will be decided by Wednesday, November 15. They will go to:
- The winner of the last European playoff: Denmark v Republic of Ireland
- The two winners of intercontinental playoffs: Peru v New Zealand, Australia v Honduras