Milan: Veteran Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon expressed his sorrow as the four-time champions failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 following their 1-0 aggregate play-off defeat by Sweden.
"I'm not sorry for myself but all of Italian football," said the 39-year-old Buffon, who confirmed his international retirement after missing out on the chance to appear at a record sixth World Cup. "We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There's regret at finishing like that, not because time passes."
He added: "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." But the 2006 World Cup winner insisted the national team would rise again despite their absence from next year's tournament in Russia -- just the third edition without the Azzurri, after 1930 and 1958.
"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," said Buffon. "I leave a squad of talent that will have their say, including (goalkeepers) Gigi Donnarumma and Mattia Perin. I thank the lads who were with us and, although it wasn't enough, I hope that we gave them something.
"In football you win as a group, you lose as a group, you divide the credit and the blame. The coach is part of this entire group." It was a tearful farewell for Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon, who had dreamed of bowing out with another record in a stellar career -- a sixth World Cup finals appearance.
Instead, his career finished not in Russia but with a humiliating World Cup playoff exit against Sweden at Milan's San Siro stadium, as Italy missed out on the finals for the first time in 60 years.
The charismatic 39-year-old had solidly represented the Azzurri for the past 20 years, earning a record 175 caps, but this time not even he could lift a second-rate Italy side. The Azzuri drew 0-0 on Monday to lose 1-0 on aggregate.