A tearful Gianluigi Buffon said he was “sorry for all of Italian football” as he led a wave of international retirements after a World Cup play-off defeat by Sweden.
Italy were held to a 0-0 draw in Milan and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
Buffon, 39, said: “It’s a shame my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for the World Cup.
“Blame is shared equally between everyone. There can’t be scapegoats.”
Buffon’s Juventus team-mate Andrea Barzagli and Roma midfielder Daniele de Rossi also ended their Italy careers, while Giorgio Chiellini is expected to join them. The quartet have won 461 caps between them.
Goalkeeper Buffon made 175 appearances for his country in a 20-year career – lifting the World Cup in 2006 – and believes the future could still be bright for the four-time world champions.
“There is certainly a future for Italian football because we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet,” he said.
Italy manager Giampiero Ventura – under contract until 2020 – did not speak to national television after the defeat but arrived at a news conference 90 minutes after full time.
‘I haven’t resigned – yet’
“I have not resigned because I haven’t spoken to the president yet,” Ventura, 69, said.
“I’m sorry for being late, but every player I had the privilege of working with, I wanted to salute individually.
“Resignation? I have to evaluate an infinity of issues. We will meet with the federation and discuss it.”
Buffon’s retirement was not the only one on a night of change for Italy.
“I don’t know what we missed, all I know is we’re out of the World Cup, it’s a unique disappointment and leaving this group of lads is painful,” said defender Barzagli.
“The era of four or five veterans comes to a close, the one of the hungry young players coming through begins and that’s how it should be.”
‘Send the strikers on!’
There was a bizarre moment late on when De Rossi was asked to warm up but pointed instead at Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne, a player Ventura refused to call upon despite pressure from Italian media and supporters.
Lorenzo Insigne has scored three goals and made four assists for Napoli in Serie A this season
“I just said we were near the end and had to win, so send the strikers to warm up!” said De Rossi. “I pointed to Insigne too.
“I just thought perhaps it was better that Insigne come on instead.”
In the end Roma midfielder De Rossi, 34, was not used either as Italy failed in their search for the goal that would have taken the tie to extra time.