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UPDATED: Italy fail to reach World Cup as Sweden go through

Buffon announces retirement from international football

Italy players in despair after missing out on a place in next year's World Cup finals.

Italy players in despair after missing out on a place in next year's World Cup finals.

Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 after being shut out by Sweden at a sold-out San Siro.

Trailing 1-0 on aggregate to a Jakob Johansson goal scored in Friday's first leg in Stockholm, Giampiero Ventura's Azzurri were cheered on by almost 72,000 Italian fans in Milan.

But despite laying siege to the Scandinavian defence over 90 feverish minutes, Italy could not make the breakthrough and the goalless draw was enough for Sweden to reach Russia 2018.

Head coach Ventura, who in August agreed a new contract running until 2020, has borne the brunt of the criticism across a World Cup campaign which saw four-time world champions Italy limp to a second-place finish behind Spain, and with that the ignominy of a two-legged play-off.

It was always going to be hard for Italy to get their own way in the Swedish capital, but with a wealth of striking options, one of the stingiest defences in Europe and arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in Gianluigi Buffon, much more was expected from this return clash.

Buffon may be hardest hit by Italy's failure to reach the summer finals. At 39, the Juventus stopper had already decided to quit international football after the tournament and his 175th cap, won on a dismal night in Milan, may be his last.

The increasingly execrated Ventura yielded to the incessant calls to use Napoli pass-master Jorginho in midfielder by handing the Brazil-born player a first competitive Italy cap.

Manolo Gabbiadini got the nod - perhaps surprisingly ahead of Lorenzo Insigne - to lead the line alongside Lazio striker Ciro Immobile.

The Southampton player was first to test the Swedes' resolve, finding his shot blocked before Manchester United's Matteo Darmian, deployed on the left wing, blasted wide of goal.

It was always going to be hard for Italy to get their own way in the Swedish capital, but with a wealth of striking options, one of the stingiest defences in Europe and arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in Gianluigi Buffon, much more was expected from this return clash.

Jorginho soon released Immobile down the right and Robin Olsen had to make a smart stop amid steadily building Italian pressure.

Retaining control, the Azzurri grew in confidence after the half hour and Antonio Candreva came close to scoring when rifling Immobile's low cross towards the top of the net, where Olsen blocked.

 

Andreas Granqvist was Sweden's saviour as half-time drew nearer.

First he scooped Immobile's goalbound effort off the line before tidying up when Marco Parolo looked like turning home a Darmian pass.

He and his fellow centre-back Victor Lindelof were lucky, though, when Alessandro Florenzi missed the mark when cutting inside from the left byline.

After the break Darmian had a penalty shout rejected after controlling Florenzi's cross - Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz instead called handball.

Florenzi's next attempt struck the far post and following another turn of the screw Immobile was left with his head in his hands after side-footing Candreva's wicked cross wide from close range.

Olsen got underneath a looping ball - a deflected Florenzi strike - that threatened to drop in at his far post and from then on Italy's high-intensity approach abated somewhat.

Sweden’s Sebastian Larsson and team mates celebrate after the match.Sweden’s Sebastian Larsson and team mates celebrate after the match.

It was not until the 77th minute that the Azzurri threatened again, Florenzi blasting high from a pinpoint winger's cross by defensive stalwart Giorgio Chiellini.

Olsen faced a few desperate moments as time ticked away in west Milan.

The FC Copenhagen keeper parried a bullet header from Parolo and with three minutes remaining, punched substitute Stephan El Shaarawy's powerful drive to safety.

 

It was enough for Sweden, who will play at the finals for the first time since 2006 - the same year in which Italy were last crowned champions of the world.

 

 

BUFFON RETIRES

A tearful Gianluigi Buffon called time on his 175-cap international career in the moments following the confirmation of Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup.

The 39-year-old Juventus goalkeeper, who made his Italy debut in October 1997, kept a clean sheet against Sweden at San Siro but his outfield team-mates failed to score the goals that could have overturned the Scandinavians' 1-0 advantage in the two-legged European play-off.

Buffon had already decided to hang up his Azzurri gloves after Russia 2018 and, with that opportunity stripped from him seven months before the tournament, he is taking his leave early.

In tweets from the national team's official account, he said: "We are proud, we are strong, we are stubborn. We will pick ourselves up as we have always done.

"I am leaving a national team set-up that will know how to pick itself up again.

"Best wishes to everybody, and especially to those with whom I have shared this beautiful journey."

Italy, who last failed to qualify in 1958, have won the World Cup four times, most recently in 2006.

Buffon, who lifted the trophy in Berlin following a penalty shoot-out victory over France, continued: "The blame is divided equally among all of us. There must be no scapegoats.

"We win together and we lose together.

"I'm not feeling sorry for myself but I'm sorry about the whole affair. We blew something that could have meant so much. The main regret is that it ended like this."

 
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