Italy’s odds, according to Betnow.eu, of winning the 2018 World Cup are not just bad; they’re nonexistent. That’s okay, though. Come 2022 there will be another World Cup.
What there won’t be another of, at least in the international stage, is a Gianluigi Buffon, whose storied and decorated career as goalkeeper and captain of the Italy national team ended when the final whistle was blown on the second leg of the World Cup playoffs against Sweden, leaving Italy out of a World Cup for the first time in 60 years.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Italy’s odds, per Betnow.eu, of winning the World Cup are not just bad; they’re nonexistent. Worse yet, Gianluigi Buffon retired from international play.
So how good is Buffon? He has made a few mistakes in life and even fewer on the pitch. Not just anyone can “accidentally” use numbers and phrases with neo-fascist connotations as part of his official or unofficial apparel, forge a high school accounting diploma, and become involved in a gamble scandal, and yet remain a popular and successful public figure. Maybe it’s western society’s fascination with the ‘bad guy,’ (which is especially notorious in football; see Diego Maradona, Luis Suarez, Marco Materazzi, et al) or perhaps it was sheer luck. After all, as our Latin American friends say, an unlucky goaltender is no goaltender at all. Then again, one doesn’t achieve all that Buffon has accomplished just by dumb luck.
Let’s see, Buffon is the most capped footballer in the history of the Italian national team, the fourth-most capped male international player ever, and the most capped European international player of all time; Buffon is tied with Fabio Cannavaro for most appearances for Italy as captain with 79. Buffon was called up for an international record of five World Cup tournaments (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014) since debuting in 1997, and was Italy’s starting goalie in four of them. He was the starting netminder of the Italian team that won the 2006 World Cup, where he won the Lev Yashin Award for best goalkeeper with a record five clean sheets while conceding just two goals, neither in open play. He represented Italy at four European Championships, the 1996 Olympics, and two FIFA Confederations Cups, and won the bronze medal in the 2013 edition of the competition.
Buffon’s accolades at the club level would be an equally long list, but that’s another story for another day. His international career, though, has unfortunately ended, as TS Eliot would say, not with a bang but a whimper. “I’m sorry — and not just for me, but for everybody involved,” Buffon said following Italy’s heartbreaking elimination. “We’ve failed something which could have been big also on a social level and this is my only disappointment. I’m sorry that my final game coincided with us not qualifying for the World Cup.” Andrea Barzagli, Daniele de Rossi, and Giorgio Chiellini are all expected to retire from international play as well, while coach Gian Piero Ventura reportedly tendered his resignation after the game, putting a big question mark on the national team, though Buffon is optimistic. “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.”