Italy bundled out of the 2018 World Cup by Sweden, marking its first absence in 60 years14 November 2017 | FT Editor
Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958, has not only sent shockwaves throughout the football world but also spells the end of four big name international careers.
It was widely reported that veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon would retire as an international at the end of the 2018 campaign. He bade a tearful farewell to his legions of fans after the game, and was joined by Daniele de Rossi, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini who called it “zero hour” for Italian football.
The Azzurri lost the first leg 1-0 in Sweden on Friday thanks to a deflected Jakob Johansson strike. Coming into the return leg this morning Australian time, Italy had never lost at San Siro, managing 22 victories and four draws, while Sweden had lost all three previous visits without scoring a goal.
The Spanish referee, Antonio Mateu Lahoz, drew controversy with a number of penalty shouts waved away for both teams.
Italy had their first strong penalty appeal within eight minutes, as Marco Parolo seemed to be tripped from behind by Ludwig Augsustinsson. The referee waved play on and, instead, booked Chiellini for dissent.
Sweden also had appeals turned down when the ball was flicked on to Matteo Darmian’s wrist, but the referee considered it involuntary.
The Azzurri had 74% possession in the first half and 11 shots to one.
Early in the second half, Darmian chested down a cross and was kneed in the ribs by Lustig, but instead of awarding the penalty, the referee gave a non-existent handball against the Italy wing-back.
Chiellini, however, did not blame the referee.
“At the end of the day it was deserved. I am not someone who clings to good luck or the referee, we compliment Sweden. We gave everything we had, but evidently at this moment it was not enough and they deserved it more than we did,” the Juventus defender told Rai Sport.
“We must resume from the love shown to us from Milan, but also the whole nation. We were truly proud of everything around us and therefore even more disappointed not to get the result.
“We have many young lads who over the next few years will need this same love and support. It’s a long road ahead and after a fall like this there is much work to be done.
“Over the last three years or so we have asked for this love to never leave the Nazionale. Italy will begin again from Marco Verratti and many other lads born in the 1990s who will be mature for the next Euros, which fortunately we’ll have some games at home.
“I am certain that if what we saw tonight can be built on, it will be seen as a ‘Zero Hour’.
“Italy hadn’t missed the World Cup in 60 years, so clearly it is a sea change. Football belongs to everyone and we all want to create a new era,” said Chiellini.
Despite being sad at not being at next year’s tournament, the verdict from many Australians of Italian heritage was similar to Chiellini. From the local barista to the Twitterati, the failure to qualify is seen as an opportunity to rebuild not just the national team, but to clean out Italian football from the top.
Many also see Italy's failure as a warning to Australia who meets Honduras tomorrow in Sydney with the score at 0-0 and 90 minutes to go.
It hurts badly but sometimes you need to torch the paddock so the next crop grows well.
— RossM (@MussRosso) November 13, 2017
Words that should be emblazoned across the wall of @Socceroos change room.
Please, no complacency..
You carry the expectation of all football community in AUS - from kids in parks to people for whom “another 4yrs may never be seen”.
— Dean Rosario (@DeanRosario) November 13, 2017
For all those that think being at the World Cup is an entitlement, feel their country deserves to be there, say we are better than the opposition etc… Italy along with many other worthy countries are OUT of the WC. Nothing is gifted to you. It’s ⚽️
— Elia Santoro (@Elia_Santoro) November 13, 2017
— Guido Tresoldi (@GuidoTresoldi) November 13, 2017
italy, sweden, world cup qualifier, #roadtorussia