MILAN (REUTERS) – Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years after being held to a 0-0 draw at home to Sweden who booked a place in Russia with a 1-0 aggregate win on Monday (Nov 13).
Sweden survived wave after wave of Italian attacks in the second leg of their European playoff on a night of unremitting tension and drama at a disbelieving San Siro.
Four-times champions Italy, who had not missed the World Cup since the 1958 finals in Sweden, penned the visitors into their own half for most of the game and created a hatful of chances but could not find a way past Robin Olsen in the Sweden goal.
The hosts, who enjoyed 75 per cent of possession, had shots cleared off the line, others stopped by Olsen and penalty appeals turned down as they pressed desperately for a goal.
“We had no weapons left. We just had to sit there and hope that we could hang on,” said Sweden coach Jan Andersson. “"We couldn’t do it in any other way, they are so skilful.”
The closest Italy came to scoring was a Ciro Immobile effort which was partially stopped by Olsen and cleared away by Victor Lindelof as it was about to trickle over the line.
Italy’s players collapsed onto the pitch in despair as the final whistle went and even veterans such as Giorgio Chiellini were inconsolable. The crowd’s support during the game quickly turned to hostility as boos rang around the stadium.