Gianluigi Buffon Retires from Italy With 175 Caps After 20 Years
An international career that began two decades ago in a Moscow blizzard ended with the even greater chill of failure for Gianluigi Buffon.
The legendary goalkeeper wept as it was confirmed Italy will not be returning to Russia next summer to bring one of the great footballing lives full circle.
The deflected Jakob Johansson strike that beat him in Stockholm last Friday night proved decisive as Italy’s forward fired blanks on a night of despair at the San Siro.
It was one of the frequent reminders that sports adheres to no script, however romantic the notion of 39-year-old Buffon bowing out on football’s biggest stage.
For the first time in 60 years, the World Cup will go on without them.
‘The End’ screamed the headline on the front cover of Wednesday’s Gazzetta dello Sport, which pictured a tearful Buffon against a black background to reflect the mood of a football-obsessed nation now in mourning.
Inside, after describing their failure as the coming of the ‘apocalypse’, the newspaper offered suggestions of how to fill the void next summer.
‘It’s time to start thinking about what else we can do in June: concerts, cinema, village festivals. Anything but watching Sweden play at the World Cup – that would be too painful,’ they wrote.
The same thoughts will now run through Buffon’s mind after this abrupt end to an Italy career spanning 20 years, nine major tournaments and an astonishing 175 caps.
Only three male footballers have more caps than Buffon – Ahmed Hassan of Egypt with 184, Mohamed Al-Deayea of Saudi Arabia on 178 and Mexico’s Claudio Suarez on 177.
All three of those retired a long time ago, meaning Buffon will now not have the opportunity to become the most-capped footballer of all time.
The many glowing tributes that flooded in from players old and current may soothe Buffon’s pain a little, but his tear-stained post-match interview demonstrated just how much he felt this crushing disappointment.
Buffon had shown his class all evening in Milan. He applauded during the Swedish national anthem when the home fans booed it, he tried to whip up the crowd as time ebbed away in the second-half, and he attempted to convince a disbelieving Italian public that life will go on.
‘We failed at something that also means something on a social level,’ he said. ‘Blame is shared equally between everyone. There cannot be scapegoats. We have pride, strength and we are stubborn.
‘We know how to get back up again as we’ve always done. I am leaving an Italy side that will know how to speak for itself.’
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