Gianluigi Buffon retires as Italy lose to Sweden in World Cup play-off


Gianluigi Buffon made his international debut against Russia in 1997

A tearful Gianluigi Buffon said he was “sorry for all of Italian football” as he announced his international retirement after defeat by Sweden.

Italy were held to a 0-0 draw in Milan and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

Buffon, 39, said: “It’s a shame my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for the World Cup.

“Blame is shared equally between everyone. There can’t be scapegoats. Win together, lose together.”

The Juventus goalkeeper won 175 caps for his country – lifting the World Cup in 2006 – and believes the future could still be bright for the four-time world champions.

“There is certainly a future for Italian football, as we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet,” he said.

Italy manager Giampiero Ventura – under contract until 2020 – did not speak to Italian television after the defeat, while Buffon’s retirement may not be the last.

Italian media are reporting that several other squad members including Daniele de Rossi and Andrea Barzagli will also call time on their international careers.

“I don’t know what we missed, all I know is we’re out of the World Cup, it’s a unique disappointment and leaving this group of lads is painful,” said defender Barzagli.

“It’s immensely disappointing, I hope the younger players can take the situation in hand and do better than us.

“The era of four or five veterans comes to a close, the one of the hungry young players coming through begins and that’s how it should be.”

‘Send the strikers on!’

Ventura has been criticised for not playing Napoli playmaker Lorenzo Insigne, and he again left him on the bench throughout the 90 minutes in Milan despite his side desperately needing a goal.

Lorenzo Insigne has scored three goals and made four assists for Napoli in Serie A this season

Midfielder De Rossi was caught on camera pointing at Insigne when he was asked to warm up late on in the game.

“We have this tendency to warm up three at a time, then after five minutes we change and another three go,” he said.

“I just said we were near the end and had to win, so send the strikers to warm up! I pointed to Insigne too.

“I just thought perhaps it was better that Insigne come on instead.”

In the end Roma midfielder De Rossi was not used either.

‘Apocalypse’ – reaction in Italy

Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport’s headline

Italy’s leading sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport