Ital­ians stunned by ‘apoc­a­lypse’

IN MOURN­ING: AZ­ZURRI LAST MISSED OUT 60 YEARS AGO

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - SPORT -

Coach Ven­tura likely to pay for their ab­ject fail­ure.

Mi­lan

Stunned Ital­ians awoke yes­ter­day to the night­mar­ish re­al­i­sa­tion they will miss out on the World Cup fi­nals for the first time in 60 years. Dis­traught fans of the one-time top dogs of the global game re­acted with shock and dis­be­lief.

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.

Tear­ful cap­tain Gian­luigi Buf­fon quit in­ter­na­tional foot­ball and coach Gian Piero Ven­tura said he would con­sider his fu­ture af­ter the Az­zurri drew 0-0 with Swe­den on Mon­day to lose 1-0 on ag­gre­gate.

There was dis­be­lief among the 75 000 fans in Mi­lan’s San Siro Sta­dium with 14.8 mil­lion stunned Ital­ians watch­ing their na­tional fall from grace on tele­vi­sion.

The Ital­ian foot­ball fed­er­a­tion called cri­sis talks to­day with 69-year-old Ven­tura ex­pected to be sacked.

“We are deeply af­fected and dis­ap­pointed,” said fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Carlo Tavec­chio. “It’s a sport­ing fail­ure that re­quires shared so­lu­tions by ev­ery­one.”

For many the de­feat re­flected a pro­found malaise in Ital­ian foot­ball with the 2006 World Cup tri­umph hav­ing been fol­lowed by group stage ex­its from the last two World Cups.

“It’s the big­gest Ital­ian sports catas­tro­phe of the last 60 years, which can­not be blamed on the coach,” for­mer Rome mayor Wal­ter Vel­troni told Rai Ra­dio 1, sug­gest­ing a to­tal clearout of the hi­er­ar­chy.

For Buf­fon it was a na­tional catas­tro­phe more than a per­sonal dis­ap­point­ment.

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

The 39-year-old goal­keeper, who has 175 in­ter­na­tional caps and was an in­te­gral part of the 2006 World Cup vic­tory in Germany, had been hop­ing to com­pete in a record sixth World Cup.

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 fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion on his fu­ture. –

Pic­ture: Getty Images

CLOS­ING A CHAP­TER. Ital­ian goal­keeper Gian­luigi Buf­fon is in tears as he bids farewell in his fi­nal in­ter­na­tional match against Swe­den in Mi­lan on Mon­day.

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