Four-time world cup winners Italy became another one of the big name’s that include the Netherlands and Chile that will miss next year’s world cup finals in Russia after losing their play-off against Sweden 1-0 over the two legs.
This will be the first time the Italians have failed to qualify for the finals, although they did miss the 1930 World cup after declining their invitation. Ironically the last time Sweden qualified was in 2006, the last time Italy won the trophy. With a 1-0 win from the first leg courtesy of midfielder Jakob Johansson’s deflected effort, Sweden travelled to Italy for the second leg and decided on the risky game plan of sitting back and defending their lead.
For the hosts, they had nothing to lose and through everything at the Swedes, having over 76% of the overall possession and 20 shots on target but failed to convert their chances as Striker Ciro Immobile missed a number of opportunities including one cleared of the line by Sweden defender Andreas Granqvist. The Italians did have one more clear chance late in the game when Substitute EL Shaarawy hit a rocket on the volley towards the Swedish goal, but keeper Robin Olsen added to his impressive performance and got enough of a touch to deflect the shot away from goal.
The defeat as come with the headlines ‘Italy, this is the Apocalypse, were out of the World Cup’ in the Italian media, while it also sees the end of an era as it confirms the international retirement of Italy’s long-standing Goal keeper and Captain Gianluigi Buffon who bows out with 175 international caps 79 of which as captain and had Italy qualified he would have been taking part in his sixth world cup tournament after first making Italian squad for the 1998 world cup.