Gianluigi Buffon: End of an era as Italy fall short of reaching World Cup
(Image credit-BBC Sport)
Kolkata: “A mountain of a man. A giant of goalkeeper. A credit to his sport,” said Gary Lineker as Gianluigi Buffon hanged up his boots as an international player. He had announced his plan of retiring after the 2018 World Cup but destiny had something else in store for the legend and Italy’s failure of reaching the tournament finals following the 0-0 draw against Sweden put a disrupting end to a career that stood the test test of time.
Disappointed and disheartened at failing to qualify for the first time in 59 years Buffon, fighting to hold back his tears, said, “It’s a shame my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for the World Cup. We failed with our aim which could have also been really important on a social level. This is the only regret that I have. I’m not sorry for myself but all of the Italian football movement.”
In an era, where money controls and passion for the game is seldom found, Buffon’s tears were however testimony to his love for Gli Azzurri. The most expensive goalkeeper in history, it was not a farewell Buffon would have hoped for, yet after 175 caps and a World Cup in 20 years of service to his country, this was how it ended for Europe’s most loved goalkeeper. His dreams of playing one more World Cup was shattered by a stubborn Sweden that threw the kitchen sink to stay unbeaten for 180 minutes of football and will take the flight to Russia for the first time since 2006.
Buffon’s retirement also signals the end of the country’s last remaining breed that tasted World Cup glory 11 years ago. Daniele de Rossi and Andrea Barzagli also joined the maestro. Juventus teammate Giorgio Chiellini is yet to decide and is also expected to call it a day soon.
My adventure here ends,” said De Rossi, who was seen arguing with coach Ventura over bringing on another striker insisted of sending him. “It’s sad to think this was the last time I will wear these colours. But I couldn’t be more proud of the journey, everyone I’ve played alongside,” added the AS Roma captain.
Juventus player Barzagli has been a long servant of ‘The Blues’ and broken with the loss he said, “In football terms, it’s the biggest disappointment of my life. The Italy side gives you unique sensations. It gives you goosebumps, creates friendships between all the Italy fans, they are finally united. It’s a real shame to end like this. … I don’t know what we missed, all I know is we’re out of the World Cup, it’s a unique disappointment and leaving this group of lads is painful.”
1958 was the last time Italy missed out on a World Cup and 2018 will once again be without one of it’s favourite child. ‘It will be apocalypse, if Italy don’t go to the World Cup,” Italy FA President had said and apocalypse it was. “We will not be with you and you will not be with us. Italy will not participate at the World Cup,” a newspaper from the country read.
As the country bid goodbye to three of its finest heroes, the new generation finds itself tasked with lifting up Italy once again to glory. “The future is safe,” Buffon had concluded.