Gianluigi Buffon fought back tears as he confirmed his retirement from international football following Italy’s shock failure to qualify for Russia 2018.
The Azzurri missed out on a place at the World Cup for the first time since 1958 as a 0-0 draw at San Siro on Monday confirmed a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Sweden.
Gian Piero Ventura appears all but certain to be axed as national team boss as a result of the heartbreak, but saying goodbye to 175-cap veteran Buffon will hit the Italian fans harder.
The Juventus legend insisted he was not saddened by the end of his international career, which peaked with the 2006 World Cup triumph, but rather the effect the result will have on Italian football.
‘It’s disappointing,’ Buffon told Rai Sport.
‘Not for me, but for the football movement, because we failed at something that could’ve been truly important for the country. That is the only regret I have and certainly not that I am finishing my career, because time passes and it’s only right.
‘It’s just a shame my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for the World Cup.
‘[But] there is certainly a future for Italian football, as we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet.
‘I’m leaving an Italy side that will know how to speak for itself.’
Despite the embarrassment of a botched campaign, Buffon refused to lay the blame on Ventura.
‘In football you win as a group, you lose as a group, you divide the credit and the blame,’ he said.
‘The coach is part of this entire group.’
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) November 13, 2017
-This story originally appeared on FourFourTwo.co.za