Buffon bows out in tears
It was a tearful farewell for Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon, who had dreamed of bowing out with another record in a stellar career -- a sixth World Cup finals appearance.
Instead, his career finished with a humiliating World Cup playoff exit against Sweden at Milan's San Siro stadium, as Italy missed out on the finals for the first time in 60 years.
The 39-year-old had solidly represented the Azzurri for the past 20 years, earning a record 175 caps, but this time not even he could lift a second-rate Italy side. The Azzuri drew 0-0 on Monday to lose 1-0 on aggregate, ending Buffon's international career.
He follows another legendary Italy goalkeeper, Dino Zoff, who also departed the international scene after a defeat to Sweden.
"I'm not sorry for myself but all of Italian football," Buffon told Italian broadcaster Rai. "We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There's regret at finishing like that, not because time passes."
The defeat represents the end of a generation with Andrea Barzagli, 36, and 34-year-old midfielder Daniele de Rossi, who also lifted the 2006 World Cup, also retiring from internationals, along with Buffon's Juventus team-mate Giorgio Chiellini.
"My Barzagli, my de Rossi, my Chiellini... they will leave as well, I think Bonucci will continue. I say thanks to everyone, I don't want to steal the spotlight," said Buffon.
De Rossi moved past Andrea Pirlo into fourth place on Italy's appearance list.
"It's a dark moment, very dark for those of us who were part of this two-year era," De Rossi told RAI. "I've been wandering around Coverciano [the training ground] and over the world with this shirt for over a decade, so to take it off for the last time is a strange feeling."
Barzagli, 36, said it was an "end of an era".
"In football terms, it's the biggest disappointment of my life," he said. "The Italy side gives you unique sensations. It gives you goosebumps, creates friendships between all the Italy fans, they are finally united. It's a real shame to end like this."