Gianluigi Buffon..

The sad reason Gianluigi Buffon was on the bench for Juventus v Sampdoria

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Every football supporter with a heart wanted to put their arm round Gianluigi Buffon when his beloved Italy were knocked out of their World Cup play-off this week.

Gli Azzurri were always going to struggle to make the finals in Russia when they were cruelly drawn in the same group as 2010 winners Spain but there was always hope of qualification via the runners-up spot.

Sweden proved the nation to stand in their way - a seemingly simple task for Italy but a nation that had managed to fight on in a group containing France and the Netherlands.

Jakob Johansson found the net during a tense first leg to give Sweden the advantage before the Scandinavian nation booked their flight to Russia with a goalless draw in Milan.

All eyes were on Buffon, though, who showed his true class during the game when he applauded the Swedish national anthem - despite the Italy fans heckling it - and showing his respect to the Sweden players at full-time.

He also delivered a heartbreaking post-match interview that made everybody wish FIFA could somehow allow Italy and their 39-year-old legend to somehow qualify.

As sad as it may seem, the days of Buffon in the colours of Azzurri are over and only the conclusion of his club career with Juventus remains.

The Italian has made it clear that he will retire at the end of this season unless the Old Lady win the Champions League, in which case he would stay on to fight for the FIFA Club World Cup.

Italy v Sweden - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg

Ex-Arsenal shot stopper Wojciech Szcesny was brought in this summer with a view to one day replacing the great man and has been granted five Serie A appearances this season.

One of which came on Sunday afternoon and the trek to Stadio Luigi Ferraris to face Sampdoria - but why was Buffon dropped to the bench?

Massimiliano Allegri explained before the game: "They're getting over the disappointment but after 15 days with the national team they spent a notable amount of physical and -- above all -- mental energy.

"It would have been Buffon's sixth World Cup and it was a big disappointment. But I found him in form. He had a good reaction."

So positivity in the end but the mental toll of mid-week elimination saw Buffon ill-prepared to slip straight back into the Juventus fold and given his reaction, it's no huge surprise.


Like the 39-year-old has so many times in his career already, though, he will bounce back and if there's any justice in football, Buffon will retire in a blaze of glory.

Do you think Gianluigi Buffon is the best goalkeeper in the world? Have your say in the comments section below.

Italy Football
Serie A
Gianluigi Buffon
World Cup

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