Buffon teary Italy farewell after WC fail

Nov 13, 2017 - 11:16 PM Gianluigi Buffon had the perfect farewell planned: Concluding his glorious international career exactly where it started, in Russia.

In a bonus sixth World Cup.

It wasn't mean to be, though.

Two decades after making his Italy debut on a snowy field in Moscow in a World Cup playoff, Buffon was in the jersey in Milan in another playoff.

But the Italians drew 0-0 with Sweden and lost the two-legged tie 1-0.

Buffon, the captain, wore the hurt on his face.

"It is upsetting that my last match decided we didn't qualify for the World Cup," he said, wiping away tears.

In his record 175th appearance for Italy, Buffon was hardly tested and even ventured forward in a desperate attempt to score from two corners late in the match at San Siro.

But four-time champions Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Not for me, though, but for (Italy)," Buffon said.

"I'm sorry that we failed at something that could have also been important on a social level. That's the only regret I have.

"We didn't leave anything out on the pitch."

Porto keeper Iker Casillas, who has 167 caps with Spain, tweeted his own tribute to Buffon.

"I don't like seeing you like this!" he wrote.

"I want to see you as you've always been, as what you are for so many - as a legend. I'm proud to have met you and to have faced you many times."

If Italy had qualified, Buffon, who will turn 40 in January, would have become the first player to travel to six World Cups.

Buffon's first was in 1998 in France, and he was the second-choice goalkeeper behind Gianluca Pagliuca and didn't play.

He was one of the driving forces behind Italy's run to the 2006 World Cup title and remains one of the world's best -- just three weeks ago he was named UEFA club goalkeeper of the year.

He announced in June that this season will be his last unless Juventus win the elusive Champions League, in which case he would continue for one more season to try and also win the Club World Cup and other trophies.

Fortunately for Italy, Gianluigi Donnarumma is ready to replace Buffon.

At 18, he is already in his third season as the starter at AC Milan.

"A lot of these kids are talented, including Donnarumma and (reserve goalkeeper Mattia) Perin," Buffon told RAI state TV.

"I wish these kids a lot of luck."

Veteran midfielder Daniele De Rossi should take over as Italy captain.

"There's definitely a future, because we have pride and strength," Buffon said.

"We're stubborn and hard-headed. After ugly falls we find a way to rise back up."

Source: AAP

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