Gianluigi Buffon has confirmed his retirement from international play after Italy’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The legendary goalkeeper had previously indicated his intention to step away from the Azzurri following the tournament in Russia. But Italy were eliminated from contention for the World Cup with a 0-0 second-leg draw against Sweden on Monday in Milan, as the visitors advanced on aggregate following a 1-0 win in the first leg.
It marked the first time the four-time World Cup winners had missed the finals since 1958.
The Juventus legend said he was not saddened by the end of his international career but rather the effect the result will have on Italian football.
“It’s disappointing,” Buffon told Rai Sport while fighting back tears.
“Not for me, but for the football movement, because we failed at something that could’ve been truly important for the country. That is the only regret I have and certainly not that I am finishing my career, because time passes and it’s only right.
“It’s just a shame my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for the World Cup. [But] 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’m leaving an Italy side that will know how to speak for itself.”
Buffon ends his Italy career having compiled 175 caps over two decades, peaking with the 2006 World Cup triumph in Germany. The 39-year-old has represented Italy at a record-tying five World Cups, as well as four European Championships and two Confederations Cups.
Had Italy qualified for Russia 2018, Buffon could have become the first player to earn a roster spot on six World Cup squads, and just the third to see the pitch in five tournaments.
Despite the embarrassment of a botched campaign this cycle, Buffon refused to lay the blame on manager Gian Piero Ventura.
“In football you win as a group, you lose as a group, you divide the credit and the blame,” he said. “The coach is part of this entire group.”
Shortly after Buffon announced his retirement, his World Cup-winning team-mates Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi followed suit by confirming they too were stepping away from the international game.