Sweden is headed to the 2018 edition of the FIFA world cup in Russia, ending four-time champion Italy’s sixty year world cup run. After a goalless draw in the second leg of their play-off at the San Siro, Sweden qualified with a 1-0 aggregate victory.
Italy dominated possession but struggled to create enough clear-cut chances, as Sweden secured a first appearance at the finals since 2006 courtesy of Jakob Johansson’s first-leg strike in Stockholm.
Despite the support of 74,000 fans in a white-hot atmosphere, the 2006 World Cup winners could not find a way through.
The Azzurri were plagued by their recent lack of precision throughout the game. They managed their first shots on target late in the first half when Andreas Granqvist defended on the goal line after Ciro Immobile fired under the legs of goalkeeper Robin Olsen, who then stopped a shot that Alessandro Florenzi fired from the left.
The hosts’ poor finishing continued in the second half, despite bringing on strikers Andrea Belotti and Stephan El Shaarawy on 63 minutes for Matteo Darmian and Manolo Gabbiadini.
Immobile then deflected off target and Belotti saw his first effort roll wide before El Shaarawy forced Olsen’s only real save in the 87th.
It is the third time that the Italians will not compete at the World Cup, after not going to the first edition in 1930 and not qualifying for the 1958 finals in Sweden.
It marks the end of an era for iconic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who will not be able to compete in his sixth World Cup.
At 39, the 175-times capped Buffon had announced that the finals in Russia would be his last as a player for the national side.
“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.”
Without star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who retired from the national team after Euro 2016, Sweden sealed a return to the tournament after failing to reach the last two editions. The last time the Scandinavians participated was in 2006.
“I’m emotional and very happy,” said Sweden coach Janne Andersson. “This match showed our collective strength
The Swedes successfully defended Jakob Johansson’s lone winner from the home leg and are now set to play their 12th World Cup in Russia next year. They last qualified in 2006.