A tearful Gianluigi Buffon called time on his 175-cap international career in the moments following the confirmation of Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.
The 39-year-old Juventus goalkeeper, who made his Italy debut in October 1997, kept a clean sheet against Sweden at San Siro but his outfield team-mates failed to score the goals that could have overturned the Scandinavians’ 1-0 advantage in the two-legged European play-off.
Buffon had already decided to hang up his Azzurri gloves after Russia 2018 and, with that opportunity stripped from him seven months before the tournament, he is taking his leave early.
Italy, who last failed to qualify in 1958, have won the World Cup four times, most recently in 2006.
Also opting to draw a line under his experience with the national side on a bitter night in Milan was Daniele De Rossi.
The Roma midfielder, 34, was filmed reacting angrily when he was asked to warm up ahead of a mooted substitute appearance, with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport claiming he wanted Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne to go on in his place and pursue the goal that would force extra-time.
Later he spoke directly to the sports daily, saying: “It’s a dark moment for our football. It’s very bad that we’ve been part of this for the last two years and now we’re all going to have time to think.
“The Federation will have to reflect on how we can put things right. Beyond everything that was wrong tactically, technically and physically, we just did not deserve to qualify.
“There are 16 and 17-year-olds at Coverciano (Italy’s training base) now and I think this is the last time I’ll be wearing this shirt. After the match there has been a funereal atmosphere around the place.”
On the argument with coaching staff that was broadcast on Italian television, he added: “It was a fraught moment and I wanted them to bring on the attacking players. I thought maybe Insigne or (Stephan) El Shaarawy would be more effective than me.”