Italy misses out on World Cup for 1st time since 1958 as Sweden qualifies

Carlo Campo 6d ago
MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP / Getty

Andrea Pirlo wasn't an option. Marco Verratti was suspended. Lorenzo Insigne was unbelievably confined to the bench. The writing was on the wall.

On Monday, Italy and Sweden played out a scoreless draw at Stadio San Siro as the Azzurri, who entered the game needing a victory, failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and sent a country into mourning. It will be the first time since 1958 that football's most prestigious tournament is played without the four-time champion.

As the final whistle sounded, Italy's footballers dropped to the ground. Some of them were in tears, including Gianluigi Buffon, who may have represented the Azzurri for the final time.

"I'm not sorry for myself but all of Italian football," the Italian 'keeper said. "We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There's regret at finishing like that, not because time passes."

Whistles and boos echoed across Stadio San Siro after a display in which Italy, needing to score at least once, lacked a cutting edge in the final third. Without Insigne, whose omission from the game was inexplicable and led to supporters calling for the sacking of Gian Piero Ventura, the Azzurri simply couldn't break down Sweden's defence.

The defensive quartet of Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, and Ludwig Augustinsson was exceptional, keeping Italy at bay while ensuring that Robin Olsen wasn't made to work. It was a familiar scene. Just like the first leg, the Azzurri's 3-5-2 formation left the forwards isolated and forced the ball to be played to the wing-backs, Antonio Candreva and Matteo Darmian, who couldn't do much. Jorginho provided a layer of creativity that was absent in Sweden but it wasn't enough to overcome a tactical nightmare by Ventura.

Of note, the 1958 World Cup - which marks Italy's last absence - was played in Sweden, with the Blagult losing to Brazil in the final.