Four-time champs Italy fail to qualify for World Cup

Four-time champs Italy fail to qualify for World Cup

Four-time champions Italy failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958 as they were held to a 0-0 draw in the second leg of their play-off at the San Siro by Sweden, who qualified with a 1-0 aggregate victory.

Italy dominated possession but struggled to create enough clear-cut chances, as Sweden secured a first appearance at the finals since 2006 courtesy of Jakob Johansson's first-leg strike in Stockholm.

Despite the support of 74,000 fans in a white-hot atmosphere at the San Siro, the 2006 World Cup winners could not find a way through.

It is the third time that the Italians will not compete at the World Cup, after not going to the first edition in 1930 and not qualifying for the 1958 finals in Sweden. They have played in the last 14 World Cup Finals, winning two of them. In all, they have triumphed four times, a tally only exceeded by Brazil, who have won five times. Italy are the only former champions not to make it to next year's finals in Russia.

It marks the end of an era for iconic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who will not be able to compete in a record sixth World Cup. At 39, the 175-times capped Buffon had announced that the finals in Russia would be his last as a player for the national side.

"I'm sorry, sorry, sorry," a tearful Buffon told Rai television as he confirmed he was ending his international career. "I'm not sorry for myself but all of Italian football because we failed at something which also means something on a social level."

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