Amaz­ingly, Ital­ians miss fi­nals berth

NT News - - SPORT -

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.

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