MILAN — Italy, for the first time in 60 years, have failed to qualify for the World Cup after drawing 0-0 against Sweden,who booked a place at next year’s finals in Russia with a 1-0 aggregate win, in Milan on Monday.
Italy, a football-crazy country, has taken part in every World Cup since failing to qualify for the sport’s most prestigious event in 1958.
Sweden survived waves of attacks in the second leg of their European playoff on a night of unremitting tension and drama at a stunned San Siro where the cheers turned to boos after four-timnes champions Italy were left to rue their spurned chances.
Having successfully defended Jakob Johansson’s winner from the home leg in Stockholm, Sweden are now set to take part in their 12th World Cup.
The Italians, who had not missed the World Cup since the 1958 finals in Sweden, had 75 percent of possession, squandered numerous opportunities and had penalty appeals turned down in their increasingly desperate search for an equaliser.
The Italian players sank to their knees as the final whistle went, the starkest possible contrast to the Swedish joy, knowing that the match will leave an indelible stain on their careers.
It was also the tear-jerking end to the career of their 39-year-old goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon who made his Italy debut 20 years ago against Russia — on the last occasion that Italy had to face a playoff for a World Cup place.
With Inputs from ReutersFollow @gorkhapost