Italians in tears after missing World Cup
Published: 14 November 2017
First absence in 60 years a sad end for legend Buffon
Italy's Gianluigi Buffon and Manolo Gabbiadini feel the pain
Image © 2017 AP Photo/Luca Bruno
Gianluigi Buffon had the perfect farewell planned: Concluding his glorious international career exactly where it started, in Russia.
Travelling to a record-breaking sixth World Cup.
It wasn't mean to be, though.
Two decades after making his Italy debut on a snowy field in Moscow in a World Cup playoff, Buffon was in the jersey in Milan in another playoff.
But the Italians drew 0-0 with Sweden and lost the two-legged tie 1-0, meaning the four-time champions failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Since 1934, Italy have only missed one World Cup, in 1958 in the when the event was coincidentally hosted by Sweden.
Buffon, the captain, wore the hurt on his face.
"It is upsetting that my last match decided we didn't qualify for the World Cup," he said, wiping away tears.
In his record 175th appearance for Italy, Buffon was hardly tested and even ventured forward in a desperate attempt to score from two corners late in the match at San Siro.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Not for me, though, but for all of Italian football," Buffon said.
"I'm sorry that we failed at something that could have also been important on a social level. That's the only regret I have.
"We didn't leave anything out on the pitch."
If Italy had qualified, Buffon, who will turn 40 in January, would have become the first player to travel to six World Cups.
Buffon's first was in 1998 in France, and he was the second-choice goalkeeper behind Gianluca Pagliuca and didn't play.
He was one of the driving forces behind Italy's run to the 2006 World Cup title and remains one of the world's best -- just three weeks ago he was named UEFA club goalkeeper of the year.
On the eve of Australia's do-or-die clash with Honduras, Italy’s demise is likely to heighten the senses in the Socceroos camp, given they face the same task – scoring goals at home.
Australia and Honduras drew 0-0 in the away leg last Saturday in San Pedro Sula.
Sweden's backs-to-the-wall playoff effort returned Janne Andersson's side to the showpiece tournament for the first time in 12 years.
Italy join the Netherlands, South American champions Chile and African champions Cameroon as powerhouse countries that won't be appearing in Russia.
Australia will be the third continental champion to miss out unless they get past Honduras at ANZ Stadium.
Should the Socceroos win through, they'll be in elite company as one of just 12 nations to have participated at the past four events.
Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Spain, South Korea, Mexico, Japan, England, France, Portugal, Switzerland and -- possibly -- Australia have been at each tournament since Germany 2006.
MISSING RUSSIA: COUNTRIES THAT WON'T BE AT THE 2018 WORLD CUP
Italy - Four-time champions, ranked world No.15
Netherlands - Runners-up in 2010, third in 2014, ranked world No.20
Chile - Back-to-back South American champions and world No.9
Cameroon - Seven-time qualifiers and reigning African champions
Cote D'Ivoire - Two-time African champions and had qualified for past three World Cups
South Africa - 2010 World Cup hosts and three-time qualifiers
US - Global heavyweights who haven't missed a World Cup since 1986
China - World's most populous country with huge investment in soccer
Qatar - Will host in 2022 without ever having played at a finals tournament
STILL TO PLAY: Republic of Ireland v Denmark, Australia v Honduras, Peru v New Zealand.
with PAA & AAP