Italian hearts broke after Sweden held the Azzurri to a 0-0 draw in the second leg of their World Cup qualifying tie.
A 1-0 defeat in the first match in Sweden meant Italy headed to the San Siro needing goals but they were impossible to come by. Despite boasting 75 per cent of the possession and taking 23 shots to four, the home side was left to rue what might have been.
The men in blue will watch next year’s World Cup in Russia from home after failing to qualify for football’s showpiece tournament for the first time since 1958.
Here’s how everyone reacted to the shock result.
Quality teams miss out in every cycle and it’s no different approaching 2018. Along with Italy, the Netherlands will also be absent in Russia after Sweden finished with a superior goal difference in Group A to pip the Dutch for second spot.
It’s incredible to think neither the Netherlands (World No. 20) — who lost the World Cup final to Spain in 2010 — nor Italy (No. 15) who won the tournament in 2006 will be playing for the trophy in 2018.
Also USA (27 rated) failed to reach the world cup after spectacularly to lose 2-1 against Trinidad and Tobago last month.
No Italy, Netherlands or USA for World Cup isn’t cause for despair. There’s Panama, Iceland, and (allegedly) Senegal. Plenty of good stories to be had. And new blood is welcome.
— David Larkins (@LarkinsWSun) 13 November 2017
In a truth sure to provide ammunition to football critics everywhere (“How can you play 90 minutes and end with a score of 0-0?”), Italy’s loss highlights a trend that has infiltrated World Cup qualifying of late.
The past six qualifiers — not just in Europe but around the world — have all ended in scoreless draws. Three of the four draws between European teams occurred in the second legs of ties, while Australia’s draw with Honduras and New Zealand’s stalemate against Peru were both first-leg results.
Last 6 World Cup playoff games….
Honduras 0-0 Australia
New Zealand 0-0 Peru
Denmark 0-0 Ireland
Switzerland 0-0 N Ireland
Greece 0-0 Croatia
Italy 0-0 Sweden
Now 569 mins (9.5 hours) since last goal when Sweden scored on Friday.
— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) 13 November 2017
Joy and PARTY TIME in Sweden
For all the sadness engulfing Italy, it was party time in Sweden.
Sweden celebrating reaching the World Cup. Scenes👏 pic.twitter.com/tb231jLZDI
— Away Days Videos (@AwayDaysVideos) 13 November 2017
Objective viewers will acknowledge Italy outplayed the Swedes, but that doesn’t change the result. Coach Jan Andersson admitted it was all about defence in the dying stages against a team stacked with superior talent.
“We had no weapons left. We just had to sit there and hope that we could hang on,” Andersson said.
“We couldn’t do it in any other way, they are so skilful.”
— Robbie Slater (@RobbieSlater17) 13 November 2017
Unexpected Snub for Insigne
When Italy made its third change of the match, replacing Candreva with Bernardeschi in the dying stages, it meant goalsneak Lorenzo Insigne was resigned to not seeing a single minute of action.
One of Italy’s most potent attacking weapons, he scored 20 goals and recorded 12 assists for Napoli last season, but coach Gian Piero Ventura’s decision to leave him on the bench baffled fans everywhere who were begging for his inclusion.
It even looked like the Italian players on the sideline were getting antsy sitting back and watching their World Cup hopes disappear.
— nonleggerlo (@nonleggerlo) 13 November 2017
Absolutely appalling that Lorenzo Insigne didn’t get a shot. 6 goals and 5 assists in Serie A this season. #FreeInsigne
— Jack Grimse (@JackGrimse) 13 November 2017
Insigne 90 minutes on the bench.
Never seen something like this.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) 13 November 2017
Insigne is top for key passes in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season, with 38.
Italy struggling to break Sweden down and have a lion share of possession, yet Ventura leaves him on the bench…
— Ben McAleer (@BenMcAleer1) 13 November 2017
Insigne. How is he not on the pitch?
— Joe Krishnan (@joekrishnan) 13 November 2017
Buffon Last Game for the Azzuri
Gianluigi Buffon had the perfect farewell planned: Concluding his glorious international career exactly where it started, in Russia.
In a bonus sixth World Cup.
It wasn’t mean to be, though.