Buf­fon calls time af­ter Ital­ians suf­fer World Cup ‘apoc­a­lypse’

The Phnom Penh Post - - SPORT - Em­me­line Moore

ATEARFUL Gian­luigi Buf­fon quit in­ter­na­tional foot­ball as four-time cham­pi­ons Italy sen­sa­tion­ally missed out on their first World Cup fi­nals in 60 years af­ter a play­off de­feat to Swe­den.

Coach Gian Piero Ven­tura a lso said he would con­sider his fu­ture af­ter the Az­zuri drew 0-0 on Mon­day i n t he sec­ond leg of t heir tie with Swe­den, who qual­i­fied 1-0 on ag­gre­gate.

Dis­traught Ital­ian fans re­acted with shock and dis­be­lief, while the Ital­ian press called it an “apoc­a­lypse” for the team, who last failed to qual­ify for the 1958 World Cup and have played ev­ery other edi­tion apart from the in­au­gu­ral tour­na­ment in 1930.

“I’m not sorry for my­self but all of Ital­ian foot­ball, be­cause we failed at some­thing which also means some­thing on a so­cial level,” said an emo­tional Buf­fon as he con­firmed his re­tire­ment.

The 39-year-old goal­keeper, who lifted the 2006 World Cup in Ger­many, had been hop­ing to com­pete in a record sixth World Cup.

‘Re­sign? I don’t know’

Buf­fon, who has 175 in­ter­na­tional caps, had al­ready an­nounced that the World Cup fi­nals in Rus­sia would be his last.

But Ven­tura made no an­nounce­ment about his po­si­tion de­spite fail­ing to lead the 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006 win­ners to their 19th World Cup. The for­mer Torino coach said he would first talk to the Ital­ian fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion on his fu­ture.

“Re­sign? I don’t know. I have to eval­u­ate an in­fin­ity of things. I have not yet spo­ken to the pres­i­dent,” Ven­tura said. “It doesn’t de­pend on me. I’m not in the state of mind to face this ques­tion.”

“It’s a very heavy re­sult to bear, be­cause I was ab­so­lutely con­vinced that we had this fe­ro­cious de­sire to over­come the ob­sta­cle.”

Ital­ian fans were strug­gling to come to terms with the prospect of a World Cup with­out their na­tional team.

“It is re­ally very sad be­cause watch­ing the World Cup was some­thing that re­ally brought us to­gether as Ital­ians,” said re­cent grad­u­ate Ste­fa­nia Pusateri, head­ing for the exit af­ter watch­ing the match in a Rome bar.

“But what is sure is that the shock will be even worse for my fa­ther. He is 54 years old and he has never had to go through some­thing like this.”

An­other Rome res­i­dent, En­rico Doddi, summed up the na­tional dis­ap­point­ment, say­ing: “You can- not have a good World Cup with­out Italy.”

The game at Mi­lan’s San Siro sta­dium wit­nessed a gen­er­a­tional shift for Italy, with Buf­fon and fel­low 2006 veter­ans An­drea Barza­gli and Daniele De Rossi all quit­ting the team, while Gior­gio Chiellini also hung up his Az­zurri jer­sey.

“The era of four or five veter­ans comes to a close, the one of the hun­gry young play­ers com­ing through be­gins and that’s how it should be,” said Ven­tura, who took over from Chelsea coach An­to­nio Conte in 2016 with a con­tract un­til June 2020.

Italy dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion but strug­gled to cre­ate enough clearcut chances, as Swe­den se­cured a first ap­pear­ance at the fi­nals since 2006 courtesy of Jakob Jo­hans­son’s first­leg strike in Stock­holm.

‘In­tol­er­a­ble’ shame

Ven­tura had made changes from Fri­day’s de­feat, with Brazil-born Jorginho mak­ing his de­but and Alessan­dro Florenzi and Manolo Gab­bia­dini also given starts, al­though Napoli’s in-form winger Lorenzo In­signe was again left on the bench.

As the clock ticked down, De Rossi was asked by Ven­tura to warm up but he pointed at In­signe in­stead.

“I just said we were near the end and had to win, so send the strik­ers to warm up,” De Rossi said. “I pointed to In­signe too. I just thought per­haps it was bet­ter that In­signe come on in­stead.”

Buf­fon even came up for two cor­ners in a fi­nal des­per­ate gam­ble but Italy fell des­per­ately short, lead­ing to damn­ing head­lines in the Ital­ian press.

“Italy, this is the apoc­a­lypse,” ran a head­line on the web­site of sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Wasted chances, a bit of bad luck but zero goals in 180 min­utes against the Swedes, who will go to Rus­sia,” Gazzetta com­mented.

Cor­riere dello Sport said it will be painful for the coun­try to be on the side­lines when the World Cup kicks off in Rus­sia in June.

“It is an in­tol­er­a­ble foot­ball shame, an in­deli­ble stain,” the news­pa­per said. “It is over. Apoc­a­lypse, tragedy, catas­tro­phe.”

MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP

Italy goal­keeper Gian­luigi Buf­fon re­acts dur­ing the FIFA World Cup 2018 qual­i­fy­ing match be­tween Italy and Swe­den at the San Siro sta­dium in Mi­lan on Mon­day night.

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