Be prepared for an odd World Cup. For the first time in almost 60 years, the Italians will not be appearing in a World Cup after dropping their two-legged playoff to Sweden by an aggregate score of 1-0.
Italy’s streak of 14-straight World Cup appearances was the third-longest active streak. Brazil has been to the World Cup 20-consecutive times while Germany has been to 16 straight.
This is the 12th time Sweden has qualified for the World Cup and the first time they’ve made it since 2006 in Germany when they made the Round of 16.
Sweden’s lone goal came via Jakob Johansson in the 61st minute of the first leg in Sweden and did just enough to keep Italy at bay in Milan on Monday.
While the Azzurri were desperate, their attack to find a single goal was underwhelming. Though one of their best attackers, Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli spent the entire match on the bench.
The first half was dominated by controversy as there were three legitimate penalty shouts.
The Italians felt wronged when Marco Parolo was taken down in the box by Ludwig Augustinsson without a call. But the ill will toward the officiating shifted when Swedish shouts for two fairly clear handballs went unsatisfied.
Ciro Immobile provided Italy with its best chance of the half when his effort was cleared off the line after Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen got a piece of it.
Chances did fall to the Italians near the Swedish goal, but a team that lacked any sort of attacking firepower was unable to capitalize during a second half that did see the hosts dominate most of the stanza.
While the fallout from this failure will result in what is expected to be a swift removal of Gian Piero Ventura as manager and restructuring of the Italian federation, it is a disappointing way for the international career of Gianluigi Buffon — the greatest keeper in Italian history — to end.