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The Financial Express

Gianluigi Buffon retires as Italy lose to Sweden in World Cup play-off

| Updated: November 14, 2017 22:14:28


Italy players cut dejected figures after the match as they failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years. - Reuters photo Italy players cut dejected figures after the match as they failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years. - Reuters photo

A tearful Gianluigi Buffon said he was "sorry for all of Italian football" as he led a wave of international retirements after a World Cup play-off defeat by Sweden.

Italy were held to a 0-0 draw in Milan on Monday night and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.

Sweden survived waves of attacks in the second leg of their European play-off on a night of unremitting tension and drama at a stunned San Siro where the cheers turned to boos after four-timnes champions Italy were left to rue their spurned chances, reprots Reuters.

The Azzurri, who had not missed the World Cup since the 1958 finals in Sweden, had 75 per cent of possession, squandered numerous opportunities and had penalty appeals turned down in their increasingly desperate search for an equaliser.

The Italy players, who along with their 69-year-old coach Gian Piero Ventura, are likely to face long inquests, collapsed onto the pitch in despair at the final whistle and even veterans such as Giorgio Chiellini were inconsolable.

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."

Buffon's Juventus team-mate Andrea Barzagli and Roma midfielder Daniele de Rossi also ended their Italy careers, while Giorgio Chiellini is expected to join them. The quartet have won 461 caps between them.

Goalkeeper Buffon made 175 appearances for his country in a 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," the BBC reported quoting Buffon as saying.

Italy manager Giampiero Ventura - under contract until 2020 - did not speak to national television after the defeat but arrived at a news conference 90 minutes after full time.

"I have not resigned because I haven't spoken to the president yet," Ventura, 69, said.

"I'm sorry for being late, but every player I had the privilege of working with, I wanted to salute individually.

"Resignation? I have to evaluate an infinity of issues. We will meet with the federation and discuss it."

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