Four-time world champions, Italy, have for the first time in sixty years failed to qualify for the World Cup.
The Italians missed out on a place in Russia after being held to a barren draw in the second-leg of their European playoff game at home to a defiant Sweden.
They had lost the first leg 1-0 in Stockholm a few days before thanks to a strike by Jakob Johansson.
Italy dominated possession but struggled to create enough clear-cut chances, allowing Sweden to secure a first appearance at the continental showpiece event since Germany 2006.
The Italians had only failed to qualify for the tournament once before – missing out on the 1958 World Cup in Sweden – after not entering the first World Cup in 1930.
As the final whistle blew, Italian players sank to their knees as their Swedish counterparts celebrated wildly, having overcome all the odds against them.
The game was also the last for Italy’s 39-year-old goalkeeper and captain, Gianluigi Buffon, who had previously announced that the World Cup finals in Russia would be his last appearance for the national team.
“It’s upsetting that my last Italy game coincides with our elimination for the World Cup. That’s my only regret because time goes by and it’s cruel but that’s how it is,” said an emotional Buffon who confirmed his retirement.
“I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football because we failed at something which also means something on a social level.”
“Sport teaches you to lose and win as a group and share joy and pain. The coach has the same degree of blame as us,” added the 2006 World Cup winner.
Buffon made his Italy debut 20 years ago against Russia and went ahead to feature 175 times. He has played in five World Cups but was hoping to compete in a record sixth tournament.
Buffon was not the only player to call time on their international career following the failed World Cup qualification.
Andrea Barzagli, Daniele De Rossi as well as Giorgio Chiellini all announced their retirements.
“The era of four or five veterans comes to a close, the one of the hungry young players coming through begins and that’s how it should be,” said Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura.