Italy veterans miss out on World Cup
Italy’s failure to score against Sweden means they will miss out on next year’s World Cup, as a trio of veterans retire on a sour note.
The Azzurri were unable to find the net in Monday’s second-leg play-off at San Siro in Milan, and lost the tie 1-0 on aggregate after conceding in the first leg.
Russia 2018 was going to be the last waltz for some of the squad’s most experienced players, but now Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, and Daniele De Rossi will all hang up their boots early.
"It’s disappointing," Buffon told Rai Sport. "Not for me, but for the football movement, because we failed at 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.
"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'm leaving an Italy side that will know how to speak for itself."
Now 39, Buffon will retire from the international game with 175 caps, and will most likely be joined by 36-year-old Juventus teammate Barzagli.
"In football terms, it's the biggest disappointment of my life," Barzagli told Rai Sport.
"The Italy side gives you unique sensations. It gives you goosebumps, creates friendships between all the Italy fans. It's a real shame to end like this.
"I don't know what we missed, all I know is we're out of the World Cup, it's a unique disappointment and leaving this group of lads is painful. Everyone has their own feelings, but it's really hard to accept right now."
Meanwhile, Roma captain Daniele De Rossi, 34, also looks like he will no longer be available for the national team, as he said after the match that he has been "all over the world with this jersey for over a decade, so to take it off for the last time is a strange feeling".
"We will begin again, just as we did after other desperately disappointing moments," De Rossi said.
"I don't believe we deserved to go out considering the 180 minutes, Sweden deserve credit for their performance, but it was fairly even.
"Now the next generation is ready to take flight and we must begin again from them. It was almost an absurd moment to associate with a football match. There was a funereal atmosphere in the locker room, yet nobody died."