World Cup 2018 Qualifying: Italy to Miss Tournament for 1st Time Since 1958

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2017

MILAN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 13:  Gianluigi Buffon of Italy reacts during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg between Italy and Sweden at San Siro Stadium on November 13, 2017 in Milan, Sweden.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Four-time winners Italy will miss out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after they could only draw 0-0 with Sweden at the San Siro in the second leg of their play-off on Monday. 

Jakob Johansson had given Sweden a 1-0 lead in the tie after he netted in Friday's first leg, and the visitors then produced an immaculate defensive performance in Milan to book their spot at 2018's tournament. 

Italy will not be present at their first World Cup since 1958, and manager Gian Piero Ventura is likely to face huge criticism for failing to see the Azzurri through.

The hosts had their opportunities on Monday, especially in the first half, but looked devoid of inspiration late on as they searched desperately for a goal that would have seen the tie go to extra time.

For legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, it was his last appearance as an Italy player in a remarkable career, per BigSport:

The Juventus stopper expressed his enormous disappointment at the final whistle, per Tom Rostance of BBC Sport: "I'm not sorry for myself but all of Italian football. We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There's regret at finishing like that, not because time passes."

Italy were always likely to struggle to qualify automatically for next year's World Cup as they had Spain in their qualifying group.

They managed to earn second spot behind La Roja to make the play-offs, but they never really convinced in Group G, managing only narrow wins over the likes of Albania and Israel, drawing at home to Macedonia and losing 3-0 to Spain in Madrid.

MILAN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 13:  Sweden players celebrate after  the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg between Italy and Sweden at San Siro Stadium on November 13, 2017 in Milan, .  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
Dino Panato/Getty Images

Italy's poor form left them having to overturn a 1-0 first-leg defeat to Sweden on Monday in Milan.

Jorginho looked impressive in the opening 45 minutes and set up two decent opportunities for Ciro Immobile, while Antonio Candreva also missed a fine chance.

In truth, though, Italy hardly looked rampant and were lucky not to concede at least one penalty before the break, especially when Matteo Darmian handled in the box early on.

The Manchester United defender then could have been awarded a penalty for Italy early in the second half when he looked to be kneed by Mikael Lustig.

The referee gave neither, though, and Sweden's defending throughout both legs saw them deservedly book a spot at the World Cup for the first time since 2006.