- ‘I’m not sorry for myself but for all of Italian football’
MILAN: Italy were consigned to failure as they could not find a way past Sweden and now face missing a World Cup finals for the first time since 1958, a loss which has hit nobody harder than legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who will retire in the summer.
Jakob Johansson’s goal in the first leg meant it was an uphill task at Stadio San Siro with Gian Piero Ventura’s team unable to beat the Swedish outfit. “I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football,” Buffon said, speaking after the final whistle.
“We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes.” He insisted that the qualification was no easy task, and was adamant in his refusal to apportion blame.
“Those who’ve played know how hard these matches are. We weren’t able to express ourselves at our best. We lacked the composure to score,” he stated. “Play-offs are decided by episodes and they went against us but you can understand that when you’re at fault,” he said.
“Blame is shared equally between everyone. There can’t be scapegoats. Win together, lose together,” he said. In tears by the end of the interview, it was clear that Buffon was not reconsidering his decision to call time on an illustrious career.
“We have pride, strength and we’re stubborn. We know how to get back up again as we’ve always done,” he said. “I’m leaving an Italy side that will know how to speak for itself. Hugs to everyone, especially those I’ve shared this wonderful journey with,” he said.
VENTURA APOLOGISES: Italy coach Gianpiero Ventura while speaking in the same monotone voice which has characterised his 18 months in charge, denied that he had resigned and apologised to his countrymen after his team’s astonishing failure to qualify for the World Cup. He said that he would not decide on his future before speaking to the FIGC, the Italian soccer federation.
“I haven’t resigned because I haven’t yet spoken to FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio,” he told reporters after Italy were held goalless by Sweden and lost their European playoff 1-0 on aggregate to miss next year’s Russia finals. “I absolutely apologise for the result but not for the effort we put in or our desire to win,” he said.
“It’s a terrible result from a sporting point of view. I’m upset. I thank the San Siro crowd for supporting the team until the very end,” he said. “I am proud to be part of the Blue team and to have worked with great champions,” he said. “We knew about the goodbye of the veterans,” he said, referring to several players who will almost certainly not play for their country again, including keeper Gianluigi Buffon, 39, who immediately announced his retirement.