Italy will be the only former World Cup winner that will be absent at the 2018 edition of the competition. Not only will it be the first time since the 1958 edition that Italy will be absent, the elimination by Sweden on Monday night has forced the Italian legendary goalkeeper into international retirement.
What an irony. The only World Cup finals that Italy had missed before now was the one held in Sweden in 1958. Paradoxically, it is Sweden the host of that edition that has prevented Italy from the World Cup 60 years later.
Following the FIFA World Cup winner Gianluigi Buffon had been within touching distance of history but ultimately his Italy side fell just short of winning a ticket to Russia 2018.
For Buffon, defeat against Sweden also brought down the curtain on a wonderful career at international level.
A lone first-leg goal for Sweden proved enough for them to progress at Italy’s expense, leaving Gli Azzurri set to miss their first World Cup since 1958.
An appearance at Russia 2018 would have seen the 39-year-old equal the record of five World Cups, a mark previously reached by Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal and Germany midfielder Lothar Matthaus. Buffon was also an unused substitute at a sixth World Cup in 1998.
Instead the Juventus icon, who was recently named winner of The Best FIFA Goalkeeper Award, was left to bid an emotional farewell to the international stage after 20 years.
“I’m not sorry for myself but all of the Italian football movement,” said Buffon.
“We failed with our aim, which could have also been really important on a social level. This is the only regret that I have, even if my last competitive game coincides with failure to qualify for the World Cup.”
Buffon’s is comfortably Italy’s most-capped player (175 appearances) amid a host of other distinctions achieved since his debut in 1997.
He was a key figure in 2006, when Italy won the World Cup in 2006 for a fourth time.
“We have pride and strength, we’re stubborn and after the tough falls we find the way to get back up again,” Buffon added.
“I leave a national team with good guys and they’ll speak for themselves, [goalkeepers] Gigione Donnarumma and Mattia Perin won’t make me feel regret.
“Sport teaches you to win and lose together, to share the good and the bad.