Italy failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958 as they were held to a goalless draw by Sweden in the second leg of their play-off. Sweden qualified with a 1-0 aggregate victory.
With the stunning exit, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon ended his international career and apologized in a teary fashion to his fans and Italians across the world. The 39-year-old, who has 175 international caps, had already announced that the World Cup finals in Russia would be his last.
The game at Milan’s San Siro stadium witnessed a generational shift for Italy, with Buffon and fellow 2006 veterans Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi all quitting the team, while Giorgio Chiellini also hung up his Azzurri jersey.
“I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football,” Buffon told Italian broadcaster Rai. “We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes.”
Photos of the veteran goalkeeper crying after the match went viral as Twitter was abuzz with tributes for the 39-year-old. From his contemporaries to football pundits and fans, everyone was united in praising the Italian for his contribution to football.