The symbol of everybody’s disappointment was the sight of Gigi Buffon in tears after the final whistle. The great goalkeeper who won the World Cup in 2006 and was the fourth most-capped player in history for all countries with 175 appearances will now not be able to take part in his sixth World Cup. The final night in an Italy shirt was the bitterest of all as his tears were broadcast around the world. “I’m not sorry for myself but all of the Italian football movement,” said the captain after embracing Gian Piero Ventura. “We failed with our aim which could have also been really important on a social level. This is the only regret that I have, even if my last competitive game coincides with failure to qualify for the World Up.”
Italy won’t fly to Russia in June after being knocked out by a Sweden side who knew how to hang on and keep a clean sheet for 180 minutes.
“We didn’t underestimate the opponent,” explained Buffon. “Those who’ve played in these games know what is needed to take on these teams. It’s very tiring mentally when you’re looking for that goal, we lacked the energy and composure to score. Sweden played the same game as in the first leg, it was a play-off decided by episodes, they went well for them and badly for us. When things go against you it means that you’re also at fault and when they go well it also shows that you deserve it.”
Despite the elimination which hurt Buffon, he’s confident about the future. “We have pride and strength, we’re stubborn and after the tough falls we find the way to get back up again. I leave a National Team with good guys and they’ll speak for themselves from Gigione Donnarumma and Mattia Perin who won’t make me feel regret. Hugs for all those who supported me, my Barza, Chiello, Leo, Lele with whom I’ve shared these years. Sport teaches you to win and lose together, to share the good and the bad. The Coach has the same responsibilities as we all do and those of everyone who was a part of this adventure.”
Disappointment then made way for tenderness. “The aim wasn’t to make the kids who dream of playing for the National Team cry,” Buffon added. “I remember I was disappointed but with dignity I didn’t cry in front of the television when Rizzitelli hit the post in Russia [failure to qualify for the 1992 European Championship].