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.
In tweets from the national team’s official account, he said: “We are proud, we are strong, we are stubborn. We will pick ourselves up as we have always done.
“I am leaving a national team set-up that will know how to pick itself up again.
“Best wishes to everybody, and especially to those with whom I have shared this beautiful journey.”
Italy, who last failed to qualify in 1958, have won the World Cup four times, most recently in 2006.
Buffon, who lifted the trophy in Berlin following a penalty shoot-out victory over France, continued: “The blame is divided equally among all of us. There must be no scapegoats.
“We win together and we lose together.
“I’m not feeling sorry for myself but I’m sorry about the whole affair. We blew something that could have meant so much. The main regret is that it ended like this.”