Amazingly, Italians miss finals berth
ITALIAN soccer boss Carlo Tavecchio said recently that failure to qualify for the World Cup would be the apocalypse and his worst fears came true as they missed out on the finals for the first time in 60 years.
A 0-0 draw in Milan to an inferior Sweden ended the four-time world champions’ hopes of reaching next year’s finals and with it the international careers of several of Italy’s biggest names.
The Swedes will take their place in Russia after qualifying for the first time since 2006.
Italy’s 1-0 aggregate defeat in their European playoff, after Jakob Johansson’s deflected strike in Solna, is likely to go down alongside elimination by North Korea at the 1966 World Cup as one of their greatest football failures.
The Italians have only missed qualification for the tournament once before – missing out on the 1958 finals in Sweden – after not entering the first World Cup in 1930.
The players sank to their knees as the final whistle went, the starkest possible contrast to the Swedish joy.
It also marked the end to the career of their goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon, 39, who made his Italy debut 20 years ago against Russia – the last occasion Italy featured in a World Cup playoff.