Gianluigi Buffon retires as Italy lose to Sweden in World Cup play-off
A tearful Gianluigi Buffon said he was “sorry for all of Italian football” as he announced his international retirement after defeat by Sweden.
Italy were held to a 0-0 draw in Milan and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
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. Win together, lose together.”
The Juventus goalkeeper won 175 caps for his country – 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, as we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet,” he said.
Italy manager Giampiero Ventura – under contract until 2020 – did not speak to Italian television after the defeat, while Buffon’s retirement may not be the last.
Italian media are reporting that several other squad members including Daniele de Rossi and Andrea Barzagli will also call time on their international careers.
“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,” said defender Barzagli.
“It’s immensely disappointing, I hope the younger players can take the situation in hand and do better than us.
“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.”
‘Send the strikers on!’
Ventura has been criticised for not playing Napoli playmaker Lorenzo Insigne, and he again left him on the bench throughout the 90 minutes in Milan despite his side desperately needing a goal.
Midfielder De Rossi was caught on camera pointing at Insigne when he was asked to warm up late on in the game.
“We have this tendency to warm up three at a time, then after five minutes we change and another three go,” he said.
“I just said we were near the end and had to win, so send the strikers to warm up! I pointed to Insigne too.
“I just thought perhaps it was better that Insigne come on instead.”
In the end Roma midfielder De Rossi was not used either.
‘Apocalypse’ – reaction in Italy
Italy’s leading sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport said the result brought the arrival of the “apocalypse”.
The piece said: “We will not be with you and you will not be with us. A love so great must be reserved for other things. Italy will not participate at the World Cup.
“It is time to start thinking about what else we can do in June: concerts, cinema, village festivals. Anything but watching Sweden play at the World Cup – that would be too painful.”
Who next for Italy?
Gazzetta have outlined four candidates that could replace Ventura to “rebuild from rubble and work for the 2020 Euros”.
Former AC Milan, Juventus and Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is the “most liked” name to take over having been sacked as Bayern Munich boss earlier this season. He also leads the poll on the Gazzetta website.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, who left the Italy job after Euro 2016, has also been mentioned as he is “a bit tired of England”, while ex-Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, now at Zenit St Petersburg, and Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri have also been touted.