Misfiring Italy fail to reach World Cup for first time since 1958

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Beleaguered Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura denied that he had resigned and apologised to his countrymen after his team's astonishing failure to qualify for the World Cup on Monday (Nov 13).

Italy's Mario Balotelli posted a short clip on Instagram before the game, sending a message to the fans wishing his country good luck.

Buffon, who was in the Italy squad for the 1998 World Cup, emotionally announced his retirement from global football after the game.

"I'm not sorry for myself but all of Italian football, because we failed at something which also means something on a social level", said an emotional Buffon as he confirmed his retirement.

Italy have played in the last 14 World Cup finals, winning two of them.

"Disaster", "nightmare", "humiliation", were just a few of the words splashed across the front pages of Italian newspapers to describe the shock of the team's elimination at the hands of a little-fancied Sweden in Milan.

Italian fans were struggling to come to terms with the prospect of a World Cup without their national team.

"This is incredible. This player stopped playing with Sweden a year and a half ago and we are still talking about him", Andersson told reporters.

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"The target was the World Cup".

It was also the tear-jerking end to the career of their 39-year-old goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon who made his Italy debut 20 years ago against Russian Federation - on the last occasion that Italy had to face a playoff for a World Cup place.

Ventura, 69, is under contract until 2020.

"I said to the lads in the dressing room that if we got to the World Cup they could shave [my hair] off", he said.

Despite the veteran keeper managing to keep a clean sheet, his team mates were unable to score the goals required to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.

Buffon made 175 appearances for Italy and was also a runner-up in the 2012 Euros.

The Gazzetta dello Sport headline read "FINE" - "The End" - in big, block letters, while Turin daily La Stampa wrote "Apocalypse Azzurra".

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