"Apocalypse, tragedy, catastrophe" - Italy reacts with fury to World Cup qualification failure as Gianluigi Buffon retires

 
Joe Hall
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Buffon: "There is still a future for our football" (Source: Getty)

Legendary Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon said he was "sorry for all Italian football" as he announced his retirement from the international game in the aftermath of Italy's failure to reach next summer's World Cup.

Buffon's pronouncement was a typically grandiose example of a dramatic national reaction to Italy's failure to overcome a 1-0 aggregate loss to Sweden, consigning them to missing out on the World Cup for the first time in 60 years and only the second time in their history.

The veteran 39-year-old keeper, who has 175 Italy caps and made his international debut more than two decades ago, confirmed that the disappointing night would be his last for his country.

"I'm sorry and not just for me, but for all Italian football," said Buffon.

"We've failed something which could have been big also on a social level and this is my only disappointment. I'm sorry that my final game coincided with us not qualifying for the World Cup."

The doom and gloom was even more pronounced in the Italian media, which described the national team's first failure to reach the World Cup since 1958 as an "apocalypse".

La Gazzetta dello Sport, the country's most widely-read paper, said it was the "sporting equivalent of the Titanic" under a headline simply stating; "The End".

Under the furious headline "Everybody fired!" Corriere dello Sport struggled to find an apt description. "It's an intolerable footballing disgrace," screamed its lead story. "An indelible stain. It's the end. Apocalypse, tragedy, catastrophe."

Liberal newspaper La Repubblica conjured the image of "an apocalypse with a gloomy shade of Azzurro", while La Stampa ran a headline of "Azzurra apocalypse".

The result not only marks the end of Buffon's international career, but of other long-standing team leaders Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci.

"It's a dark moment for our football," said De Rossi. "Very dark for those of us who were part of this two-year era."

Yet despite his tears, captain Buffon said Italian football could be rescued by an emerging generation of talented players.

Italy's under-21 side reached this year's European Championships semi-final and their under-20 side finished third at the World Cup.

"I want to give a big hug to everybody who has always supported me, like Chiello [Georgio Chiellini], Barza [Andrea Barzagli], Leo [Bonucci], Lele [Gabrielle Oriali, team manage] and everybody who's shared these past 10 years with me," said the Juventus keeper.

"I leave behind a national team who have got quality and will have people talking about them, from Gigio Donnarumma to [Matti] Perin - I'm sure they will ensure I am not missed.

"There is still a future for our football. We are a proud, stubborn and hard-working nation and we always find a way of lifting ourselves up after bad falls."

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