In what was a night of despair for one team and of unbridled joy for another as Italy drew 1-1 with Sweden and lost the two-legged 1-0 qualifier to be denied a spot in the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 1958 and the second time in the tournament’s history. The match was played at the San Siro stadium in Milan. It also marked the last time legendary Italian goalkeeper and captain Gianliuigi Buffon took the field for Azzurri.
It was a sea of emotions for Buffon from start to finish. The match started with Italian fans booing when the Swedish national anthem was being played but Buffon clapped in respect for the opposition. “It is upsetting that my last match decided we didn’t qualify for the World Cup,” said Buffon, who was the goalkeeper when Italy won the trophy in 2006, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Not for me, though, but for (Italy),” 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.”
— Casa del Fútbol M+ (@casadelfutbol) 13 November 2017
Had Italy qualified, it would have been a sixth World Cup appearance for Buffon. His retirement also means that he misses out on a chance to become the player with most international caps.
He was not the only one bowing out. Moments later, midfielder Daniele De Rossi and defensive duo Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini also announced their retirements from international duty. But Buffon believes that Italy have a bright future. “A lot of these kids are talented, including (Gianluigi) Donnarumma and (reserve goalkeeper Mattia) Perin,” Buffon told RAI state TV. “I wish these kids a lot of luck.”
“There’s definitely a future, because we have pride and strength,” Buffon said. “We’re stubborn and hard-headed. After ugly falls we find a way to rise back up.”