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Italy World Cup failure seen as the 'apocalypse'

Ancelotti seen as potential head coach to take over from Ventura

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is comforted by Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is comforted by Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Italy's leading sports daily newspaper hailed the arrival of the "apocalypse" after the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

After losing the first leg of their European play-off 1-0 to Sweden in Stockholm, Italy needed a winning performance back at a sold-out San Siro in Milan.

Despite their efforts, a Swedish shut-out sent the Scandinavians to Russia and left the Italian players in tears, with veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon emotionally announcing the end of his 175-cap career almost immediately after the final whistle blew.

La Gazzetta dello Sport blamed "opportunities missed" in an article titled: "Italy, this is the apocalypse."

"We will not be with you and you will not be with us," read an editorial. "A love so great must be reserved for other things. Italy will not participate at the World Cup.

"There will be inevitable consequences, but let's just see if they stop with Ventura or go further."

The Italian media has largely placed the blame for a poor qualifying campaign and dismal play-off attempt at the door of head coach Giampiero Ventura, who is under contract until 2020.

But La Gazzetta holds little hope for the 69-year-old tactician, writing: "Ventura, now it's over" and identifying Carlo Ancelotti as his potential successor. The Italian is out of work after leaving Bayern Munich.

"Whoever comes in will have to rebuild from rubble and work towards Euro 2020," read the article.

"The most fancied name is Ancelotti but there is the possibility (Chelsea boss Antonio) Conte will return, as he is a bit tired of England.

"Very welcome alternatives would be (Roberto) Mancini and (Massimiliano) Allegri, if they can leave their respective roles at Zenit St Petersburg and Juventus."

PremiumSport pundit Sandro Piccinini had his say, writing on Twitter: "Tremendous disappointment. Ventura has failed, but more so than him there is (Italian Football Federation) President (Carlo) Tavecchio.

"The players are not innocent either - not managing to score a single goal in two matches against Sweden is unforgivable.

"Credit goes to Buffon for his sincerity through tears, his represent those of us all." 

Porto keeper Iker Casillas, who has 167 caps with Spain, tweeted his own tribute to Buffon.

"I don't like seeing you like this!" he wrote. "I want to see you as you've always been, as what you are for so many - as a legend. I'm proud to have met you and to have faced you many times."

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