‘Apoc­a­lypse Az­zurra’: Italy to miss World Cup

Goal­keeper quits af­ter World Cup catas­tro­phe

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ROME: The End. The Apoc­a­lypse. A na­tional shame.

Lo­cal news­pa­pers spared no words yes­ter­day in de­scrib­ing four-time cham­pi­ons Italy’s fail­ure to qual­ify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

The Gazzetta dello Sport head­line read “FINE” (the end) in big, block let­ters while Turin daily La Stampa wrote “Apoc­a­lypse Az­zurra”. Rome daily Il Mes­sag­gero called it “A na­tional shame” and Rome sports daily Cor­riere dello Sport said “Ev­ery­one out”.

Af­ter a goal­less draw with Swe­den on Mon­day, Italy lost their World Cup qual­i­fy­ing play-off 1-0 on ag­gre­gate.

Italy had par­tic­i­pated in every World Cup since fail­ing to qual­ify for the 1958 tour­na­ment, which coin­ci­den­tally was held in Swe­den.

The pre­vi­ous ma­jor com­pe­ti­tions Italy missed were the 1984 and 1992 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships.

“It’s one of the dark­est pages of our sport­ing his­tory,” Gazzetta ed­i­tor An­drea Monti wrote in a front­page edi­to­rial.

“A bru­tal slap be­yond the in­cal­cu­la­ble harm for a coun­try that lives and breathes foot­ball.”

The Gazzetta gave Italy coach Gian Piero Ven­tura a lowly three out of 10 in its fa­mous re­port card for the game.

“He will go down as one of the worst na­tional team coaches of all time, if not the worst,” it read.

The failed cam­paign will cost Italy over US$1 bil­lion, said ex-Ital­ian foot­ball fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Franco Car­raro.

MILAN: A tear­ful Gian­luigi Buf­fon quit in­ter­na­tional foot­ball as four-time cham­pi­ons Italy sen­sa­tion­ally missed out on their first World Cup fi­nals in 60 years af­ter a play-off de­feat to Swe­den.

Coach Gian Piero Ven­tura also said he would con­sider his fu­ture af­ter the Az­zurri drew 0-0 on Mon­day in the sec­ond leg of their 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.

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,” said Ven­tura. “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 can­not 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 clear-cut chances, as Swe­den se­cured a first ap­pear­ance at the fi­nals since 2006 cour­tesy of Jakob Jo­hans­son’s first-leg strike in Stock­holm.

Ven­tura had made changes from Fri­day’s de­feat with Brazil-born Jorginho mak­ing his Italy de­but and Alessan­dro Florenzi and Manolo Gab­bia­dini also handed 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,” said De Rossi. “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.”

RE­SULT

At Milan: Italy 0 Swe­den 0

(Swe­den win 1-0 on ag­gre­gate, qual­ify for World Cup)

AFP

Ital­ian sup­port­ers in a bar in Milan re­act as they watch Italy play Swe­den in a World Cup play-off on Mon­day.

AP

LEFT Italy goal­keeper Gian­luigi Buf­fon is hugged by team­mate Leonardo Bonucci af­ter their team was elim­i­nated.

EPA

Italy goal­keeper Gian­luigi Buf­fon, left, and coach Gian Piero Ven­tura con­sole each other af­ter the match against Swe­den in Milan on Mon­day.

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