World Cup Qualifiers: It's no time to panic, says Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon
'Keeper Buffon insists Italy should not set alarm bells ringing after 0-1 defeat to Sweden which leaves Azzurri on brink of missing out on World Cup berth
Keeper Buffon insists Italy should not set alarm bells ringing after 0-1 defeat to Sweden which leaves Azzurri on brink of missing out on World Cup berth
Italy must not panic as they bid to avoid missing a World Cup for the first time in 60 years, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said after a 1-0 playoff defeat to Sweden pushed them to the brink of disaster. Captain Buffon —bidding to reach a record sixth World Cup finals in Russia — is one of the last survivors of Italy's golden generation of 2006 World Cup winners. But an Azzurri performance in Stockholm branded "ugly and confused" leaves Italy with all to play for in Monday's second leg in Milan to avoid failing to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958.
Swedish players celebrate their opening goal during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier playoff first leg against Italy at Friends Arena in Solna, Sweden on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
"We need to be as clear-headed as possible to go to the World Cup. We know we've lost, but we have another 90 minutes to overcome this complicated situation. The first rule is not to cry over it," he told TMW radio.
'Expect a full San Siro'
"I expect a full San Siro to carry this team through. I don't want to think it's the game of life, but I'm convinced that with the help of the public we will do it. We must be confident Monday, otherwise we have already lost," he said.
Buffon, 39, added: "You have to keep your head high and your shoulders straight. There are another 90 minutes and we want to make the most of it, we are strong." The last time Italy failed to reach the World Cup was for the 1958 tournament in Sweden. But Gian Piero Ventura's side were already under pressure going into the tie after a disappointing end to their Group G campaign that featured a 3-0 loss in Spain and a 1-1 home draw with Macedonia. "I feel so strongly that we will qualify because I saw the players in the dressing room and they were angry," said Ventura.
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon
But Ventura's tactics are under the microscope along with Italy's failure to bring in sufficient new blood over the past decade. Buffon is one of three 2006 World Cup-winning veterans who are still in the team.
Ventura failed to find room in his 3-5-2 formation for in-form Napoli winger Lorenzo Insigne and Andrea Belotti and Ciro Immobile failed to find the impetus up front. In more bad news for Italy, influential midfielder Marco Verratti picked up a yellow card which means he's banned for the second leg.