World Cup without Italy would be a 'disaster', says Low

Posted November 14, 2017

Gianluigi Buffon wants to lead Italy to the World Cup next summer (Picture: Getty)When is Italy vs Sweden?

Italy, who have won the World Cup on four occasions, the last time in 2006, will be the most high profile absentee from the finals in Russian Federation next year.

By virtue of its 1-0 win on aggregate over the Italians, Sweden has now qualified for the 12th World Cup in the nation's history.

Reigning champions Germany are in no such position having already confirmed their spot in Russian Federation and, while Low believes Sweden have shown plenty to suggest they deserve to qualify, he also feels Italy failing to qualify would be a blow to the tournament.

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Gianluigi Buffon fought back tears as he confirmed his retirement from worldwide football following Italy's shock failure to qualify for Russian Federation 2018.

Despite 64 per cent possession and ten shots on goal in the first leg, Italy failed to score away from home and things didn't improve when they returned to the San Siro. Now, they join The Netherlands as football juggernauts who won't even make an appearance in Russian Federation.

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Without star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who retired from the national team after Euro 2016, Sweden sealed a return to the tournament after failing to reach the last two editions.

The United States would nearly certainly have made it, with Panama's "ghost" goal against Costa Rica guaranteed to have been ruled out by VAR, while Northern Ireland rightfully feel aggrieved that they lost their playoff to Switzerland courtesy of a penalty awarded for a handball that never was in the playoff first leg in Belfast.

They played to a goalless draw in the second leg at San Siro on Monday.

This will be only the second World Cup missed by Italy.

But the series of playoff games for Russian Federation 2018 have seen fear of failure drown out ambition, leading to some desperately tiresome encounters and precious few goals.

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC.