For the first time in 60 years, Italy have failed to qualify for football’s most prestigious event: the FIFA World Cup.
Having lost the first leg 1-0 in Stockholm, a 0-0 draw with Sweden at the San Siro stadium in Milan on Nov. 13 sealed the Azzuri’s fate: they were not going to Russia come summer 2018. The crowd was struck with sadness, defeat, and disbelief as their national team failed to score after 180 minutes of play. As much as the Italian crowd willed them on, the team just could not muster a goal.
It is safe to say that this comes as a shock to all football lovers on the planet. Italy have been present at the finals of every World Cup since the 1958 edition, then hosted, ironically, in Sweden.
The ill-fated team was coached by Gian Piero Ventura, who was heavily criticized for foolish decision-making and is being socially crucified after the team’s failure. Ventura had the immense duty of filling Antonio Conte’s shoes, something the Italians are furious at him for seemingly failing to do. The Azzurri had failed to surpass Spain in their qualifying group, and so failed to qualify to the finals automatically.
As the Swedish team rejoiced on the field and their fans roared with joy in the stands, a deathly silence loomed on the Italian crowd, and the players were a sight that would surely make even the coldest of hearts wrench. Dejected and defeated, they cried and consoled each other, but no one was as miserable as Italy’s beloved Gianluigi Buffon. The team’s legendary goalkeeper apologized to Italian football enthusiasts, saying “I am sorry for all of Italian football.” Despite keeping a clean sheet in the second leg of the tie, he was not in a position to help his team get a goal.
What is even more devastating to Italian fans is that this was Buffon’s last game, as he has decided to retire from international football. After the end of the game, Buffon tweeted the following: “I am leaving a national team setup that will know how to pick itself up again. Best wishes to everybody, and especially to those with whom I have shared this beautiful journey.”
However, amongst failure and defeat, Italy remain strong-willed, with four stars proudly hanging on the wall of Italian football achievement. While they will not be present in Russia for the finals, Italy will be readying themselves for Qatar. Nonetheless, no one can deny that the World Cup won’t be the same without the Azzurri.