The four-time World Champions Italy will not feature in the 2018 World Cup in Russia after failing to score a single goal in 180-minutes of football against Sweden.
The land of the boot is in mourning.
Italy will not be making the trip to Russia for the 2018 World Cup after failing to beat Sweden in a two-legged Play-Off.
It’s the first time the four-time World Cup winners have failed to make it to the finals since a 17-year-old Brazilian star named Pelé made his World Cup debut in 1958.
Italy had to settle for the Play-Offs after finishing second in their qualifying group to Spain, but thfdey were still odds-on to beat the Swedes, who qualified for the Play-Offs after finishing runner-up to France.
Sweden pulled off a shock when a deflected Jakob Johansson drive was enough to give the Scandinavians a 1-0 win at the Friends Arena, but the bookies still thought Italy would turn things around when the Swede’s visited the San Siro last night.
It wasn’t to be.
Robin Olsen only had to make one save all night as Janne Andersson’s side kept the Azzurri out for a second time in a priceless goalless draw to take Sweden through to Russia with a 1-0 aggregate win.
The Italians were in tears at the final whistle, in particular, Gianluigi Buffon. The Italian captain recently voted the FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year, will almost certainly retire from international football having played 176 times for the national side winning the World Cup in 2006.
Credit to the Swedes, as they qualify for their first finals since 2006. The bookmakers make them a 66/1 shot for World Cup glory.
Joining the Swedes in Russia from the European Play-Offs are Switzerland and Croatia. The Swiss Beat Northern Ireland in Belfast in controversial circumstances after the referee gave them a penalty for a handball that never happened. Ricardo Rodriguez converted from the spot. Michael O’Neill’s side failed to break down the Swiss defence in the return leg, and a goalless draw sent the Swiss through 1-0 on aggregate. Croatia smashed Greece 4-1 in the home leg before also seeing out a goalless draw in the return leg for a 4-1 aggregate win.
The final European place will go to Denmark or the Republic of Ireland. The
two sides drew 0-0 in Denmark in the first leg, and the second leg takes place in Dublin on Tuesday night. Denmark is the favourite to win the second leg with the bookmakers making them a 9/5 favourite. Ireland is 21/10, and 19/10 for the draw.
Denmark or the Republic of Ireland
African Qualifying Round-Up
Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia join Egypt and Nigeria as the African representatives of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The Moroccans return to the top stage after a 20-year absence by beating the Ivory Coast 2-0 in the Stade Felix Houphouet Boigny in Abidjan. Morocco only needed a draw to qualify, but goals from Nabil Dibar and Mehdi Benatia saw them qualify in style.
Tunisia needed a point against Libya and got it with a hard-earned goalless draw. The last time we saw Tunisia at the World Cup Finals was in 2006.
And Senegal returns after a 16-year absence thanks to a 2-0 win against South Africa. Diafra Sakho opened the scoring, and an own goal from Thamsanqa Mkhize ended any hopes that Bafana Bafana had of making the trip to Russia.
An African side has never won the World Cup. I doubt that will change in 2018. Nigeria is the best priced at 150/1.
That leaves two spots left on the Russian bus, and currently, South America and Oceania are locked in battle as Honduras and Australia, and New Zealand and Peru, both drew 0-0 in their first legs. The winners of both ties make it through.
Tue, 14 Nov
Republic of Ireland v Denmark
Wed, 15 Nov
Australia v Honduras
Peru v New Zealand