“FINE” (“the end”), howled the front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy’s most popular sporting newspaper. “Apocalisse, disastro” wailed Corriere dello Sport, one of its rivals. Muted supporters, some of them weeping, filed out of bars across the land. An impotent 0-0 draw against Sweden in Milan’s San Siro stadium on November 13th, following a 1-0 defeat in Stockholm three days before, meant that the impossible had happened. Italy’s four World Cup titles have only been surpassed by Brazil. Yet the Azzurri have failed to qualify for next summer’s tournament in Russia—their first absence in 60 years.
In a country which treats football like a religion, such a debacle is an occasion for national mourning. Gianluigi Buffon, the team’s beloved goalkeeper (pictured), tearfully apologised for having “failed…Continue reading
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