Russia 2018 will be the first World Cup since 1958 without Italian representation, as Giampiero Ventura’s side failed to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit against Sweden.
The former Torino coach will no doubt face the wrath of the media and football supporters from all over the peninsula in the coming days, as an uninspiring campaign ends with Italy’s first failure to qualify for world football’s showpiece even in 60 years.
All the statistics pointed in favour of the Azzurri ahead of the game, with Sweden having lost three of their last four competitive away fixtures arriving at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, where Italy have never been beaten in competitive action.
The atmosphere was set early on, during the national anthem, and the visitors were on the receiving end of fierce whistles and aggressive shouts when in possession. The Swedes responded to the hostility by upping the pressure on their hosts, looking to press high up the pitch and snatch that vital away goal.
Alessandro Florenzi had the first sight of goal for Italy, but his optimistic effort from range was scuffed wide. Napoli’s in-form Jorginho went about proving that he should have been in the side all along by orchestrating attacks from midfield, setting Ciro Immobile through only for the Lazio star to hit the side-netting.
Immobile was then the creator as he got to the byline and pulled the ball back to Antonio Candreva, who fired over the crossbar from inside the box.
As half time approached, Sweden’s reliance on their defensive solidity and Robin Olsen grew. Another through ball from Jorginho found Immobile, whose low effort was deflected by the goalkeeper, which allowed Andreas Granqvist to recover and clear the ball as it trickled towards goal.
Leonardo Bonucci and Florenzi had more chances before the interval, but neither could make them count as the scores remained locked at the break.
Florenzi had another glorious chance ten minutes into the second half. Matteo Darmian’s cross found the Roman arriving in the box, but his swinging volley curled just wide of the far post.
As the second half progressed, Giampiero Ventura’s side struggled to rediscover their intensity of late in the first, seeing Andrea Belotti and Stephan El Shaarawy introduced just after the hour mark, before Federico Bernardeschi arrived with 15 minutes to play.
The San Siro crowd had quietened since the early moments, but those in attendance lifted the volume levels in one last attempt to inspire their players in the final ten minutes. Marco Parolo saw a header saved by Olsen, before Immobile was ruled offside as he looked to pounce on the rebound.
From then, frustration grew in a stop-start final few minutes, which are best summarised by a foolish foul from Bernardeschi that halted any momentum the Azzurri were looking to build.