FOR the first time since 1958, Italy will not be participating in a FIFA World Cup.
Italy played to a 0-0 draw with Sweden in a World Cup qualifying play-off second leg on Monday, falling 1-0 on aggregate to miss out on Russia 2018.
Gian Piero Ventura’s men were beaten 1-0 in Stockholm in the first leg on Friday, and were unable to overcome that deficit at the San Siro in Milan.
The shocking setback marks the end of an era for the Azzurri, with the World Cup-winning trio of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, defender Andrea Barzagli and midfielder Daniele De Rossi announcing their retirement post-game.
Italy found themselves asking for a penalty early, with referee Antonio Miguel Mateu waving away Marco Parolo’s claims of a trip from Ludwig Augustinsson.
The penalty appeals continued at the other end, with Matteo Darmian and Andrea Barzagli both committing possible handball offences in the box without drawing a whistle from Mateu.
Italy piled on the pressure in the second half in search of the goal that would send the tie to extra-time, with Stephan El Shaarawy’s fierce volley forcing a late save from Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
But that dramatic equaliser never came — even as Buffon joined the Italy attack on a pair of late set-pieces — with the Swedes rushing the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate their ticket to Russia.
Buffon, 39, said: “It’s a shame my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for the World Cup. Blame is shared equally between everyone. There can’t be scapegoats.”
“There is certainly a future for Italian football because we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet,” he said.
The Azzurri are one of the most successful teams at the World Cup, lifting the trophy in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006, but now they won’t even get the chance to participate in the tournament next summer.
– Nov 12, 2017 @ 08:34 GMT |