Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 after a 0-0 draw with Sweden on this day in 2017.
Trailing 1-0 on aggregate to a Jakob Johansson goal scored in the play-off first leg in Stockholm, Giampiero Ventura’s Azzurri were cheered on by almost 72,000 Italian fans at the San Siro.
But despite laying siege to the Scandinavian defence over 90 feverish minutes, Italy could not make the breakthrough and the goalless draw was enough for Sweden to reach Russia 2018.
Head coach Ventura, who in August agreed a new contract running until 2020, had borne the brunt of the criticism across a World Cup campaign which saw four-time world champions Italy limp to a second-place finish behind Spain, and with that the ignominy of a two-legged play-off.
It was always going to be hard for Italy to get their own way in the Swedish capital, but with a wealth of striking options, one of the stingiest defences in Europe and arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in Gianluigi Buffon, much more was expected from the return clash.
Andreas Granqvist was Sweden’s saviour before half-time drew, scooping Ciro Immobile’s goalbound effort off the line.
After the break Matteo Darmian had a penalty shout rejected after controlling Alessandro Florenzi’s cross – Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz instead called handball.
Florenzi’s next attempt struck the far post and following another turn of the screw Immobile was left with his head in his hands after side-footing Antonio Candreva’s wicked cross wide from close range.
#WCQ | FT🇮🇹Italy 0-0 Sweden🇸🇪 (0-1 agg)Sweden give their all to hold off an Italian onslaught and triumph on aggregate, booking their ticket to Russia.https://t.co/SpQDWJq93q pic.twitter.com/hGK3b8C4jd
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 13, 2017
Sweden keeper Robin Olsen faced a few desperate moments as time ticked away in Milan.
He parried a bullet header from Marco Parolo and with three minutes remaining, punched substitute Stephan El Shaarawy’s powerful drive to safety.
It was enough for Sweden, who qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2006 – the same year in which Italy were last crowned champions of the world.