Italy fail to qualify for 2018 World Cup in Russia

Four-time champions Italy failed to reach the 2018 World Cup for the first time since 1958.

Italy vs Sweden
Italy vs Sweden Reuters

Italy has failed to live their 2018 Russia World Cup dream for the first time in 60 years after being defeated by Sweden in a play-off match by 1-0 aggregate on 13 November, Monday.

While in the first leg of the play-off, Sweden's Jakob Johansson scored one goal at the 61st minute against Azzurri, the four-time World Cup champions Italy failed to find a breakthrough at the San Siro in Milan and will not be present in the competition for only the second time in their history having declined to play at the inaugural tournament in 1930.

Although the hosts had played with 76 percent possession and Italy's Stephan El Shaarawy had tried to find a way to score a goal, the Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen made sure that he will not give him the chance.

Striker Ciro Immobile missed a number of chances and his low effort in the first half were cleared off the line by center-back Andreas Granqvist.

However, the victory over Italy gave Sweden the opportunity to play in the World Cup for the first time since 2006.

On the other hand, the 39-year-old Italian Gianluigi Gigi Buffon was in tears after the loss and announced his retirement from a glittering career in international football on Monday.

"I'm not sorry for myself but all of the Italian football. We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There's regret at finishing like that, not because time passes," said Gigi after the defeat as quoted by Daily Mail.

"It's a shame my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for the World Cup.
Blame is shared equally among everyone. There can't be scapegoats," he further added.

Including Buffon, there are some other players who brought the curtain down on their international career after the play-off defeat such as Juventus player Andrea Barzagli and Roma midfielder Daniele de Rossi, even 33-year-old while Giorgio Chiellini is also expected to join others.

Buffon made 175 appearances for his country in his 20-year career - lifting the World Cup in 2006 - and believes the future could still be bright for the four-time world champions.

"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," Buffon said.