Its official, the World Cup just got a whole lot less fun, as the world’s coolest national anthem won’t be playing before games next summer. Yes, the Italian national football team will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1958 after a stunning 1-0 aggregate loss to Sweden on Monday.
After losing the opening game of their two-leg playoff series with Sweden 1-0 on Friday, the Italians were banking on a win at home to see them through to the 2018 World Cup. Instead they couldn’t muster a goal and drew the Swedes 0-0 in Milan on Monday.
The Italians are four-time World Cup champions and have been a fixture at the world’s biggest sporting event almost since it’s inception. They have missed the event just twice, the inaugural cup in 1930, and again in 1958. Italy won the cup in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006, and had runner-up finishes in 1970 and 1994.
The Azzurri have been a mess since former manager Antonio Conte left to take the reins at Chelsea. For the past year things have been an up and down struggle.
The sad thing is the players who we’ll never get to see in a final World Cup. Stalwart goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon is 39 and will never see another one. Meanwhile, long-time Italian mainstays Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi will almost certainly never get a return trip to the World Cup.
If you think the meltdown here after the U.S. men’s national team failed to reach the World Cup, be prepared for an absolute nuclear-level disaster striking Italy right now.
The next few weeks and months should be fascinating for Italian soccer, as the country goes through a transition with players, while also re-examining its program from top to bottom.