2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Gianluigi Buffon Shattered But Stays Optimistic Following Italy’s Exit

Gianluigi Buffon retires after Italy fails to advance to the 2018 World Cup following a 0-0 draw with Sweden on Monday

Gianluigi Buffon was in tears after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup in 60 years. At the same time, he also announced his retirement from international play. Despite crying live on national television during the post-match interview, the legendary Italian goalkeeper remained optimistic by saying that there is “certainly a future” for his nation’s football.

Gli Azzurri settled for a 0-0 draw with Sweden in the second leg of their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match on Monday held at the San Siro stadium in Milan. With the Swedes leading 1-0 on aggregate, head coach Gian Piero Ventura’s men needed to score just one goal to force extra-time and a potential penalty shootout.

However, as it turned out, the highly favored and talent-heavy Italian side failed to pierce through the Blue-Yellow’s defensive line in 90 minutes, booting them out of the world’s most prestigious international competition for the first time since 1958.

Understandably, the Italian team captain was the first to show his emotions afterward as it could have been his record sixth World Cup appearance since 1998. Buffon lifted the World Cup trophy once, in 2006, when his side defeated France in the final, 5-3 on penalties after scoring 1-1 on extra time.

Buffon, who will turn 40 in January, could not fight back his tears while talking to the reporter. He apologized to the fans and expressed regret that his final international appearance happened together with Italy’s exit.

Buffon expressed hope and confidence, though, as he spoke highly of his successors, AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma, 18, and Genoa’s Mattia Perin, 24, per The Sun.

“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 leave a squad of talent that will have their say, including Gigi Donnarumma and Mattia Perin.”

Buffon also acknowledged his other Azzurri teammates who had been with him for the last decade. He went on to say that in football, “you win as a group, you lose as a group” and “you divide the credit and the blame,” as he continued to talk about coming up short against Sweden.

Gianluigi Buffon retires from Italy national soccer team

Qualifying for next year’s Russia games would have been the icing on the cake to Buffon’s mythical career. Everything would have come full circle as he can go back to where his international duty officially began in 1997. He was 19-years-old when he substituted for Gianluca Pagliuca during a 1998 World Cup qualifying match against Russia in Moscow.

Goal reported that two other Italy national team members, Andrea Barzagli, 36, and Daniele De Rossi, 34, also announced their retirement from the international scene after the match.

[Featured Image by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images]