The Italian apocalypse, they called it

The Italian apocalypse, they called it

The two most behemoth footballing moments in recent history was when Leicester City stunned the footballing world to lift 2015/16 English Premier League, defeating a 5000/1 odds to do so. The world effused with plaudits for what a fairytale achievement, the likes of which we may never see anytime soon. Then came the Euro 2016 and yet again, the world was treated to a footballing marvel after the micro-nation of Iceland came from behind to defeat England 2-1 in the last-16 round of Euro 2016. Now, over a year later, football receives another dose of a shocker – Italy were eliminated from the World Cup 2018 play-offs!

The news was seismic, with sporting headlines across the world screaming for attention. Newspapers, tabloids and sports blogs dedicated precious inches towards capturing the aftermath of the final whistle. Meanwhile, airwaves, both radio and telly, have spared airtime to attempt to encapsulate the happenings of what will be an infamous night for the Italians on home soil.

An insipid, uninspired and a performance devoid of creativity prematurely brought the curtains down on an adventure yet to commence. Their barren draw on home soil saw the Italians fail to overturn a first leg 1-0 deficit, consequently being eliminated. They will, for the first time since 1958, not feature at the FIFA World Cup.

The four-time world champions, with the backing of over 60,000 fans who promised to turn the expectedly partisan stadium into a cauldron, still failed to break through a Swedish side, despite dominating possession.

Former and current football players and pundits, continue to slam the performance put in by Gian Piero Ventura’s men, with comments aired by reputable individuals of great credibility, unearthing layers of a rot in the national team that has existed for years. Among those that did not spare the powers-that-be in Italian football was Paolo Cannavaro, the brother to former World Cup winner, Fabio.

“Guys, we didn’t lose the World Cup today [Monday]. We lost it 15 years ago when thanks to incredible cashing in by those in the football world, Italy brought in flops from every area of the world to unfairly steal places from our lads… We gave them glory and fame thanks to our Italian coaches, who remain the best in the world. I only hope that now we’ve hit rock bottom there can finally be a reformation of OUR FOOTBALL!” wrote Cannavaro on Instagram.

We could dissect the characterless performance by the Azzurri through the examination of various facets: the bungled Italian Football Federation, the questionable management of national teams, a lack of desire from the Italian outfit or even the tactical approach that proved wanting. But the generation of encyclopedic knowledge would significantly overpower another heartbreaking tale of the night – which deserves mention.

At 39 years old, Gianluigi Buffon, Italy’s number one goalkeeper and footballing icon, called time on his international career following the disappointing elimination at the hands of Sweden. In a tearful episode, Gigi, capped 175 times, was quoted saying, “I am not sorry for myself but all of Italian football… There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes.”

While the sea of yellow jerseys on the field and in the stands could care less for the tears of despondency shed on Italian soil as they were overcome by elation, however, they may have been moved by sympathy and a mark of respect following the news of Gigi’s retirement. Buffon applauded the Swedish national anthem before the game, at a time when the Italian faithful jeered it.

The legendary goalkeeper was followed into retirement by loyal Roma midfielder, Daniele de Rossi as well as Juventus teammate, Andrea Barzagli. Defender, Giorgio Chiellini, also follow them. The quartet has amassed a staggering 461 caps between them.

Yes, Italy has come to an end of an era. But, in the words of Buffon, “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.”

 

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