One of the greatest events folded at the sell-out San Siro in Milan when minnows Sweden outclassed the heavyweights Italy, throwing the latter out of the next FIFA World Cup. Sweden won the first leg 1-0 in Stockholm and a 0-0 was enough to humiliate Italy. It will be after 60 years that the football World Cup will be played without Italy.
Their failure to qualify has caused heartbreak to millions. The whole Italy was grieving and the most emotionally touched man was Gianluigi Buffon. This will go down in the sports annals as one of the most shocking events – four-time world champions have missed out on the World Cup.
The loss has prompted the retirement of De Rossi, Cheillini, Barzagli, and Buffon, one of the greatest goalkeepers of this generation.
Buffon was born in Carrara in 1978. He was born into a family of Italian athletes. His mother was a discus thrower and his father was a weightlifter. Two sisters played for the Italian national volley ball team.
Buffon joined the Parma Youth team in 1991 at age 13. He played at different positions, but eventually became a goalkeeper.
The Cameroon goalkeeper Thomas Kono was the man whom he admired the most when he saw his goalkeeping skills in 1990 World Cup in Italy.
He joined the senior Para team at the age of 17 in 1995 and showed his revolutionary skills.
He had the rare ability to remain calm under pressure. He has been called “the greatest ever” because of his acrobatic dives and quick reflexes.
When he joined Juventus, he became the most expensive goalkeeper in history as well as the most expensive Italian player.
With Buffon’s retirement, an era of sheer brilliance has ended. He inspired millions of followers. The whole world grieved when it saw the great man crying at San Siro after Italy lost to Sweden. He will be dearly missed in the World Cup.
He joined the Italian national team in 1997 after playing at junior level. He made his debut against Russia on October 29. He was part of the World Cup-winning side in 2006 in Germany when Italy defeated France 5-4 in penalty shootout. He was the best goalkeeper of the tournament with no less than five clean sheets. He played 175 international games: the fourth highest in history.
During the 2015-16 season, he remained unbeaten for 12 consecutive league games – a record. He played in record five World Cups: in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014.
In 2004, he was named in the FIFA’s list of world’s greatest living players.
With Parma, he won Copa Italia, Supercoppa Italia and UEFA Cup once. With Juventus, he has won Serie A 10 times, Copa Italia thrice and Supercoppa Italia five times.
The one title he has missed out on is the prestigious UEFA Champions League. He has played three finals: in 2003, 2015 and 2017.
After the 2017 final defeat to Real Madrid, he stated that he still feels he can nail the title.
He has played 627 games in Serie A as a goalkeeper, the highest ever.
He had 10 clean sheets in one Serie A season – again a record. He also had the highest number of clean sheets for Italy in World Cups and European Championships.
He is the only goalkeeper to be awarded UEFA Club Footballer of the year-he achieved the honour in 2003.
He has won Serie A goalkeeper of the year award 12 times, best European goalkeeper thrice, and was declared IFFHS goalkeeper of the 2000s.
“He is a benchmark for me, and for every keeper of my generation,” Iker Casillas says. “I had a dream, I dreamed of becoming like him and every time I play against him it’s a real pleasure.”
With his retirement, an era of sheer brilliance has ended. He inspired millions of followers. The whole world grieved when it saw the great man crying at San Siro after the loss to Sweden. He will be dearly missed in the World Cup.