Friday, 17 November, 2017

Buffon retires from Italy duty after World Cup failure

Sweden and Italy gear up for World Cup playoff clash Italy lose to Sweden in World Cup play-off first leg
Clarence Duncan | 14 November, 2017, 00:39

Italy face Sweden tonight in their World Cup play-off game knowing that they are in real danger of missing football's showpiece event for the first time since 1958.

With seconds left, Italy forced a corner, but when the final whistle blew there was nothing but a chorus of boos from the Italian supporters as their team's World Cup dreams were ended.

The United States would nearly certainly have made it, with Panama's "ghost" goal against Costa Rica guaranteed to have been ruled out by VAR, while Northern Ireland rightfully feel aggrieved that they lost their playoff to Switzerland courtesy of a penalty awarded for a handball that never was in the playoff first leg in Belfast.

Sweden won the first leg of the playoff 1-0 on Friday.

Head coach Ventura, who in August agreed a new contract running until 2020, has borne the brunt of the criticism across a World Cup campaign which saw four-time world champions Italy limp to a second-place finish behind Spain, and with that the ignominy of a two-legged play-off.

Stephan El Shaarawy and Parolo both went close at the other end before stoppage time as the Azzurri desperately pressed on.

With this result, veteran Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon also announced his retirement from the game.

The Azzurri are one of the most successful teams at the World Cup, lifting the trophy in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006, but now they won't even get the chance to participate in the tournament next summer.

Gianluigi Buffon appears to have confirmed that his Italy career is over following the nation's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation.

"We are Italy and, if we qualify, I would like to be able to say that we did it by playing football", Ventura said at the pre-match press conference.

He added: "We want to send Italians a message not with words, but with action on the pitch". We know how to get back up again as we've always done.

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