For the first time since 1958 and only the second time ever, the Italian national team will not qualify for the World Cup. A 0-0 draw with Sweden in the second leg of the European play-off round sealed their fate, after the Azzurri lost 1-0 in the first leg on Friday.
The second leg was not without controversy, as each side had legitimate claims to penalty kicks throughout the match, but credit is also due to Sweden’s defense, which held Italy to just one shot on goal in the first leg, as well as goalkeeper Robin Olsen, who made five saves today. Italy manager Gian Piero Ventura will doubtless face criticism for refusing to start or bring on Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne, who has consistently played well for his club but failed to find any kind of footing under Ventura.
There were no real highlights in the second leg, so here is the wildly unlucky goal from Friday that went on to crush all of Italy:
This shouldn’t make America feel any better, but there is a very, very petty part of me that can’t help but relish watching an international titan like Italy struggle with the same kind of failure as the USMNT. Tasty as those sour grapes are, though, a World Cup without Gianluigi Buffon—and the prospect of his impending national team retirement—just doesn’t sit right.
Still, the result was earned on both ends. Even without their iconic star, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Sweden defied expectations and played well enough to deserve their spot in the country’s first World Cup since 2006. They seem pretty excited about it: