Buf­fon quits af­ter Italy loses World Cup play­off

Goal­keeper leads wave of in­ter­na­tional res­ig­na­tions af­ter de­feat by Swe­den

Business Daily (Kenya) - - SPORTS -

Atear­ful Gian­luigi Buf­fon said he was “sorry for all of Ital­ian foot­ball” af­ter Italy were held to a 0-0 draw in Mi­lan and failed to qual­ify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

Buf­fon, 39, said: “It’s a shame my last of­fi­cial game co­in­cided with the fail­ure to qual­ify for the World Cup.

“Blame is shared equally be­tween ev­ery­one. There can’t be scape­goats.”

Buf­fon’s Ju­ven­tus team­mate An­drea Barza­gli and Roma mid­fielder Daniele de Rossi also ended their Italy ca­reers, while Juve de­fender Gior­gio Chiellini is ex­pected to join them.

The quar­tet have won 461 caps be­tween them. Goal­keeper Buf­fon made 175 ap­pear­ances for his coun­try in a 20-year ca­reer — lift­ing the World Cup in 2006 — and be­lieves the fu­ture could still be bright for the four-time world cham­pi­ons.

“There is cer­tainly a fu­ture for Ital­ian foot­ball be­cause we have

pride, abil­ity, de­ter­mi­na­tion and af­ter bad tum­bles, we al­ways find a way to get back on our feet,” he said.

Italy man­ager Gi­ampiero Ven­tura - un­der con­tract un­til 2020 - did not speak to na­tional tele­vi­sion af­ter the de­feat but ar­rived at a news con­fer­ence 90 min­utes af­ter full-time.

“I have not re­signed be­cause I haven’t spo­ken to the pres­i­dent yet,” Ven­tura, 69, said.

“I’m sorry for be­ing late, but ev­ery player I had the priv­i­lege of work­ing with, I wanted to salute

in­di­vid­u­ally. “Res­ig­na­tion? I have to eval­u­ate an in­fin­ity of is­sues. We will meet with the fed­er­a­tion and dis­cuss it.”

Barza­gli, 36, said it was “painful” to “leave this group of lads”.

He added: “I don’t know what we missed. All I know is we’re out of the World Cup. It’s a unique dis­ap­point­ment.

“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.”

There was a bizarre mo­ment late in the game when De Rossi was asked to warm up but pointed in­stead at Napoli for­ward Lorenzo In­signe, a player Ven­tura re­fused to call upon de­spite pres­sure from Ital­ian me­dia and sup­port­ers.

“I just said we were near the end and had to win, so send the strik­ers to warm up!” said De Rossi. “I pointed to In­signe too.

“I just thought per­haps it was bet­ter that In­signe come on in­stead.”

Ul­ti­mately, De Rossi, 34, was not used either as Italy failed in their search for the goal that would have taken the tie to ex­tra time.

Italy’s lead­ing sports news­pa­per La Gazzetta dello Sport said the re­sult brought the ar­rival of the “apoc­a­lypse”.

The ar­ti­cle said: “We will not be with you and you will not be with us. A love so great must be re­served for other things. Italy will not par­tic­i­pate at the World Cup.

“It is time to start think­ing about what else we can do in June: con­certs, cinema, vil­lage fes­ti­vals. Any­thing but watch­ing Swe­den play at the World Cup that would be too painful.”

Iker Casil­las, who lifted the World Cup with Spain in 2010 and won 167 in­ter­na­tional caps, said: “I don’t like see­ing you like this. I want to see you as you’ve al­ways been, as what you are for so many - as a leg­end. I’m proud to have met you and to have faced you many times.”

--AFP

AGILITY Italy goal­keeper Gian­luigi Buf­fon (left) blocks a shot from Swe­den mid ielder Emil Fors­berg (right) dur­ing their FIFA World Cup 2018 quali ica­tion match in Solna,swe­den.

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