Italy captain Gigi Buffon was in tears after the 0-0 draw with Sweden. “It’s a shame my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for a World Cup.”
The Nazionale were unable to overturn the 1-0 first leg defeat in Solna and will not be going to Russia next summer. Buffon will also not become the first man ever to take part in six World Cup finals.
“It’s disappointing,” the 39-year-old said through tears on Rai Sport.
“Not for me, but for the football movement, because we failed something that could’ve been truly important for the country. That is the only regret I have and certainly not that I am finishing my career, because time passes and it’s only right.
“It’s just a shame my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for the World Cup.”
Buffon was asked if they had underestimated Sweden in this play-off.
“We did not underestimate anything, because those who played in these games knows what it means to face these sides, how hard it is to overcome a 1-0 deficit psychologically too.
“Perhaps we didn’t express the best football that we could, that is the regret. We lacked the energy and sharpness to score a goal, but at the end of the day Sweden played in much the same way as the first leg. This play-off was decided by incidents, which went well for them and badly for us.
“When incidents go badly for you, it’s probably your own fault too and if it goes well, you earned your luck.”
What happens now for the Azzurri after failing to qualify for their first World Cup since 1958?
“There is certainly a future for Italian football, as we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet.
“I leave a Nazionale of talent that will have their say, including Gigio Donnarumma and Mattia Perin. I want to give a hug to my Chiello, Barza, Leo and Lele, who I had almost 10 years alongside. I thank the lads who were with us and, although it wasn’t enough, I hope that we gave them something.”
Coach Giampiero Ventura has a contract to June 2020, but is bound to be fired or resign.
“In football you win as a group, you lose as a group, you divide the credit and the blame. The Coach is part of this entire group.”