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Gianluigi Buffon: We have failed Italy by not qualifying for World Cup

By Mutala Yakubu
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Gianluigi Buffon apologised to the fans after Italy failed to qualify for next year's World Cup in what was his final game for his country.

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said the national team had failed the country by not qualifying for the World Cup following their 1-0 aggregate defeat to Sweden in the play-off on Monday.

The 39-year-old also confirmed his retirement from international football following the Azzurri's failure at the San Siro.

An emotional Buffon said: "I'm not sorry for myself but all of Italian football. We failed at something which also means something on a social level.

There's regret at finishing like that, not because time passes.

"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. Play-offs are decided by episodes and they went against us but you can understand that when you're at fault.

"We have pride, strength and we're stubborn. We know how to get back up again as we've always done. 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.
"Blame is shared equally between everyone. There can't be scapegoats. Win together, lose together."

The Juventus goalkeeper, who made his Italy debut in October 1997, kept a clean sheet against Sweden at San Siro but his outfield team-mates failed to score the goals that could have overturned the Scandinavians' 1-0 advantage in the two-legged European play-off, as Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

Opting, like Buffon, to draw a line under his experience with the national side on a bitter night in Milan was Daniele De Rossi.

The Roma midfielder, 34, was filmed reacting angrily when he was asked to warm up ahead of a mooted substitute appearance, with La Gazzetta dello Sport claiming he wanted Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne to go on in his place and pursue the goal that would force extra-time.

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Later he spoke directly to the sports daily, saying: "It's a dark moment for our football. It's very bad that we've all been part of this and now we're all going to have time to think.

"The Federation will have to reflect on how we can put things right. Beyond everything that was wrong tactically, technically and physically, we just did not deserve to qualify.

"There are now 16 and 17-year-olds at Coverciano (Italy's training base) and so I think this is the last time I'll be wearing this shirt.

"After the match there has been a funereal atmosphere around the place."

On the argument with coaching staff that was broadcast on Italian television, he added: "It was a fraught moment and I wanted them to bring on the attacking players.

"I thought maybe Insigne or (Stephan) El Shaarawy would be more effective than me."