14 Nov, 13:30
There was something odd right from the start. The on-pitch master of ceremonies announced Daniele De Rossi's name in the starting eleven and among the subs.
The Roma captain's face adorned the huge LED scoreboards hanging above everyone's heads in both lateral stands not once, but twice. A lack of clarity, which led to confusion and bemusement. A bit like coach Gian Piero Ventura reign. After the 0-0 draw, Italy failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958. At the end of the ninety plus five minutes injury time the Swedes raced towards their fans tucked away high in the third tier in the Curva Sud.
The majority of people on the ground were in silence. Not anger. There was no whistling, but disbelief. Perhaps that is what happens when you haven't missed out on a World Cup for almost three generations. You don't know how to react. For the last three months, the Azzurri have been poor. They haven't convinced in any way. Sweden played them at their own game – defending deep and time wasting. The only difference between them and a vintage Italy is that the Scandinavians didn't have that extra skill or talent to score from any of the few chances they created.
Strictly speaking, their goal in Stockholm was a lucky deflection off De Rossi. So in 180 minutes, they couldn't find the net on their own. The match at San Siro could have gone on until December, and Jan Andersson's players wouldn't have scored. The hosts had the majority of possession and were positive. Jorginho was calm and inventive. Manolo Gabbiadini showed some clever touches. Andrea Belotti came off the bench and looked like a man on a mission.
Alessandro Florenzi was lively, substitute Stephan El Shaarawy was incisive and a problem for the tiring Swedish defence, but it wasn't enough. The Swedes dropped further and further back, packing the last third of the pitch, resembling bright yellow towers.
Buffon's disappointing exit
A tearful Gianluigi Buffon said that his international career was over and apologized live on TV. He also intimated that Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini were on the verge of quitting the Azzurri.
The one exit that is beyond doubt is that of Ventura. His spell has been painful. A good man and an excellent club coach, the national team was a step too far. At one point on Monday night, he sent an assistant to tell De Rossi to warm up, but the veteran allegedly replied, 'What the hell am I coming on for? We have to win, not draw', and pointed towards flair player Lorenzo Insigne close to him on the bench
Sebastiano Vernazza of Gazzetta dello Sport gave the 68-year-old boss three out of ten in his match ratings. The next coach will rebuild the defence around AC Milan duo Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal and sweeper Leonardo Bonucci. He'll also need to find a way to incorporate Insigne, who, incidentally, didn't come on in Milan, to mass disappointment.
The Azzurri aren't in terrible health, and if the performances of Florenzi, Jorginho, El Sharaawy and Belotti are anything to go by, this squad still has a bright future. But that is scant consolation now.
A traumatic night for Italian football started bizarrely with two Daniele De Rossi's, and ended painfully with no World Cup.