Shock and grief in Italy as World Cup dream implodes

Gasperini Atalanta Europa League

Gasperini Atalanta Europa League

That's because Italy, the country that has won four World Cups and is nearly always considered to be one of the favorites at major soccer events, failed to qualify for next year's tournament and won't be going to Russian Federation.

Italy's Mario Balotelli posted a short clip on Instagram before the game, sending a message to the fans wishing his country good luck.

"We knew about the goodbye of the veterans", he said, referring to several older players who will nearly certainly not play for their country again, including 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon, 39, who immediately announced his global retirement.

Meanwhile, Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon was left distraught after the match, as he said: "I'm not sorry for myself but all of Italian football".

This is the first time since 2006 that Sweden has qualified for the world showpiece.

The Manchester United striker, who retired from the national team in 2016, was among the crowd in the San Siro to cheer on his former Sweden teammates.

"I thank the lads who were us and, although it wasn't enough, I hope that we gave them something".

The 2018 World Cup qualification process is nearly complete - but already we know there will be some big-name players absent from the Russian Federation showpiece.

The manager of Sweden has questioned why their World Cup qualification has become a story about Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Play-offs are decided by episodes and they went against us but you can understand that when you're at fault.

"I have never experienced anything like this", said goalkeeper Robin Olsen. "A World Cup without Italia is like pizza without cheese".

Ventura made four changes to the team which lost 1-0 in Stockholm on Friday in the first leg and which was fiercely criticised for its lack of flair in attack.

Ventura, 69, is under contract until 2020. "I just thought perhaps it was better that Insigne come on instead".

Rome daily Il Messaggero called it "A national shame, " and Rome sports daily Corriere dello Sport said "Everyone out".

"It is an intolerable football shame, an indelible stain", the newspaper said.