A tearful Gianluigi Buffon said “sorry for all of Italian football”,as he led a wave of international retirements after the World Cup play-off defeat by Sweden.
Italy was held to a 0-0 draw in Milan and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958, which is 59 years.
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 team-mate Andrea Barzagli and Roma midfielder Daniele de Rossi, also ended their Italian football careers, while Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini is expected to join them into retirement. 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, while believing the future of Italian football was still bright for the four-time world champions.
Buffon goes further to say, “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”.
Barzagli (36), said it was “painful” to “leave this group of lads”. 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 telling moment, late in the game, when De Rossi was asked to warm up, but he pointed instead at Napoli’s Forward Lorenzo Insigne, a player the Italian coach Ventura stubbornly did not call upon, in spite of the massive pressure from the Italian media and supporters.
According to De Rossi, “I just said we were near the end and had to win, so send the strikers to warm up!, 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 quest for a lone goal that would have taken the match into extra time.