Cup exit stuns Ital­ians

The Times (South Africa) - - Sport -

● Stunned Ital­ians awoke yes­ter­day to the re­al­i­sa­tion they will miss out on the World Cup fi­nals for the first time in al­most 60 years.

Dis­traught fans of the one-time top dogs of the global game re­acted with dis­be­lief.

The Ital­ian press called it an “apoc­a­lypse” for the team, who last failed to qual­ify for the

1958 World Cup.

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.

The Ital­ian foot­ball fed­er­a­tion called cri­sis talks for today with Ven­tura, 69, 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 past 60 years, which can­not be blamed on the coach,” for­mer Rome mayor Wal­ter Vel­troni told Rai Ra­dio 1, sug­gest­ing a to­tal clear out of the hi­er­ar­chy.

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

“I’m sorry for all of Ital­ian foot­ball, be­cause we failed,” 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.

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

“The shock will be even worse for my fa­ther. He is 54 and he has never had to go through some­thing like this.”

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