Sweden’s victory over Italy at San Siro and the realisation by the hosts that they would be missing the World Cup for the first time in 60 years triggered a spontaneous emotional response: tears upon tears from the players led by veteran captain Gianluigi Buffon.
The emotions were shared countrywide.
As BBC reported many of the Italy players fell to the ground at the full-time whistle, with strikers Andrea Belotti and Immobile reduced to tears. In contrast, the Swedes ran off to enthusiastically celebrate their qualification for next summer’s tournament in Russia.
Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon also burst out in tears and was seen being consoled by coach Gianpiero Ventura, who may have to resign, despite being offered a new contract to run till 2020.
For Buffon, it was his 175th cap for Italy and the 39-year-old goalkeeper confirmed it was his last international appearance, having announced his decision to retire from football at the end of the season.
Tearful Buffon said: “I am not sorry for myself but all of Italian football. We failed at something which also means something on a social level.
“There is certainly a future for Italian football, as we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet.
“In football you win as a group, you lose as a group, you divide the credit and the blame. The coach is part of this entire group.”
The 69-year-old manager, Ventura reportedly refused to give an interview to television after the match.
He received much criticism for his decision to play a 4-2-4 formation against Spain, when his side were heavily beaten 3-0, and will once again be asked questions why he refused to play Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne, who has six goals already this season for his club side.
Ventura was given a new contract until 2020 only in August, but the Italian football association could now turn to former AC Milan and Juventus manager Carlo Ancelotti who is available after leaving German champions Bayern Munich.
Italy had won the World Cup four times and runners-up twice.
The Italian media had likened the possibility of Italy missing the World Cup as the apocalypse.
The term was repeated by sports papers such as Gazetta dello Sport when it became the reality.
“Italy, this is the apocalypse,” ran the headline of Gazzetta dello Sport on its website.
“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.”