Published: Tue, November 14, 2017
Sports | By Brett Lawson

Sweden stun Italy to book World Cup return

Sweden stun Italy to book World Cup return

Carlo Tavecchio, president of the Italian FA, famously said in September that "not qualifying would be an apocalypse".

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura blamed bad luck and the referee for Friday's defeat in Stockholm.

For this final roll of the dice Ventura finally turned to Jorginho, the Napoli midfielder who had previously played 24 minutes of senior worldwide football and had not been considered worthy of a place in the squad since last May, 20 global matches ago.

Sweden were rated nearly no chance of progressing to the finals, but the 25th-ranked team progressed to the play-off on goal difference, finishing second in their group ahead of the Netherlands and four points behind France.

Italy just weren't up to it over the two legs.

The result will nearly certainly see the end of manager Gianpiero Ventura, while the loss marks the end of superstar goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon's time in the national team.

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While Ventura's predecessor Antonio Conte guided Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 - beating Belgium and Spain along the way before going out on penalties to Germany - many felt that the team had overachieved and that the task facing Ventura would be a challenge.

Italy, who have won the World Cup on four occasions, the last time in 2006, will be the most high profile absentee from the finals in Russian Federation next year. They pressed, they pushed, but they could not prevail, and as a result will miss out on next year's tournament in Russian Federation, their first such failure in six decades.

With seconds left, Italy forced a corner, but when the final whistle blew there was nothing but a chorus of boos from the Italian supporters as their team's World Cup dreams were ended.

To avoid maintaining their remarkable sequence of World Cup appearances, they face the game against Sweden amid an atmosphere of what 'keeper Buffon has described as "high tension". Italy failed to make it out of the Group Stage in 2014.

"We are not stressed, personally I am focused on the game and I hope fans will support us". But the Azzurri also struggled to carve out clear chances against a solid Sweden side.

"We know we've lost, but we have another 90 minutes to overcome this complicated situation. There's regret at finishing like that, not because time passes", Buffon said after the result.

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