Italy lose to Sweden in World Cup Decider
Four-times winners Italy will not be at the World Cup in Russia next year after a resolute Sweden held the Italians in their own stadium. Despite intense pressure, the Italians were unable to find the goal that would have given them parity in the two-legged tie.
An inability to score proved costly for the Italians as they tried to overturn a one goal deficit from the first leg. This result means Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
Despite most of the attacking play coming from the Italians, Sweden should have been awarded a penalty in the 12th minute when Berg tried to lob the ball over the heads of the Italian defence. Manchester United’s Matteo Darmian had an outstretched arm and can consider himself very lucky not to have been penalised when the ball hit his arm.
After this incident, it was the Italian coach Gian Piero Ventura’s side that dominated and created the better of the chances but struggled to beat the Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
Olsen made a great save from Ciro Immobile towards the end of the first half and from Roma’s Stephan El Shaarawy later in the match but it was Olsen’s positional sense that kept his team heading towards an unlikely result.
An everlasting image of the match will be when defensive midfielder Daniele de Rossi was asked to warm up. But with his team desperately needing a goal, he pointed to Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne who was sat on the bench, gesturing for the manager to bring the striker on instead.
Since they last failed to qualify in 1958, Italy have won the title of World Cup winners in 1982 and 2006 and are the second only to Brazil (five) in the number of World Cups won.
Legend Buffon Calls Time on Career
If anyone doubted Buffon’s class, it was there for all to see before a ball had even been kicked. While the Italian crowd loudly jeered and booed whilst the Swedish national anthem was played, Buffon clapped enthusiastically whilst “Du Gamla, Du Fria” played on the stadium’s tannoy.
The World Cup finals were meant to be Gianluigi Buffon’s swansong at international level. At 39, this was always likely to be his final appearance on the world stage, but the manner of the defeat will have upset one of the finest goalkeepers of his generation.
After the final whistle a tearful Buffon said of the failure to qualify:
It is upsetting that my last match decided we didn’t qualify for the World Cup, I’m sorry. Not for me but for Italy. We blew something that could have meant so much. The only regret is that it ended like this. The blame is divided equally among all of us. There must be no scapegoats.– Gianluigi Buffon, Italy and Juventus goalkeeper
Buffon is not alone in his decision to retire from the national team, with Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi and Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli also announcing their retirement from the international duty.
Despite this, Buffon doesn’t believe this is the start of a terminal decline for Gli Azzurri and has faith in the youngsters. He said:
There’s definitely a future, because we have pride and strength. We’re stubborn and hard-headed. After ugly falls we find a way to rise back up. A lot of these kids are talented, including Gianluigi Donnarumma and Mattia Perin. I wish them a lot of luck.– Gianluigi Buffon, Italy and Juventus goalkeeper
The Italian media had a less optimistic outlook. La Gazzetta dello Sport titled their article covering the defeat, ‘Italy, this is the apocalypse’. This was quoting Carlo Tavecchio, president of the Italian Football Federation, who had previously stated that Italy failing to qualify ‘would be like the Apocalypse’.
Giampiero Ventura has had to deny reports that he has already resigned as Italy’s manager, but many experts declare it’s a matter of when and not if that the 69-year-old is replaced.
With all the attention on Italy, it’s easy to forget what a great achievement it was for the Swedes. This marked the first time that they have reached the World Cup finals since 2006. The Swedish team showed how much it meant to the team when they gate-crashed a Eurosport live broadcast after the victory.