The mood was eerie, simmering from disbelief towards anger and the result was unthinkable. But no noise the San Siro could produce was capable of willing Italy to a goal, and the four-time World Cup winners have missed out on their first World Cup finals since 1958 after a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Sweden.
The Azzurri, led by the hapless Gian Piero Ventura, couldn’t muster a goal over 180 minutes of football, meaning Jakob Johansson’s first-leg winner was enough to send the Swedes to Russia. Ventura had the unenviable task of replacing Antonio Conte as Italian coach, and the unenviable challenge of getting past Spain in an unforgiving qualifying group.
But questionable team selection and curious tactics saw Italy miss out on a top spot and consigned to a play-off spot, where they were bested by the Scandinavians. Those rankings feed into seedings and qualification and if Italy hadn’t been a second seed then they couldn’t have been tossed in with Spain, ultimately a draw that condemned them to this play-off months and possibly years ago.