Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (left) and head coach Gian Piero Ventura show their dejection after the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification playoff, second leg match against Sweden at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan, Italy. Sweden won 1-0 on aggregate. EPA-EFE

MILAN: Beleaguered Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura denied that he had resigned and apologised to his countrymen after his team’s astonishing failure to qualify for the World Cup on Monday.

Speaking in the same monotone voice which has characterized his 18 months in charge, Ventura said he would not decide on his future before speaking to the Italian soccer federation (FIGC).

“I haven’t resigned because I haven’t yet spoken to the (FIGC) president (Carlo Tavecchio),” he told reporters after Italy were held goalless by Sweden and lost their European playoff 1-0 on aggregate to miss next year’s Russia finals.

“I absolutely apologise for the result but not for the effort we put in or our desire to win.”

“It’s a terrible result from a sporting point of view. I’m upset. I thank the San Siro crowd for supporting the team until the very end.”

“I am proud to be part of the Blue team and to have worked with great champions,” added the 69-year-old.

“We knew about the goodbye of the veterans,” he said, referring to several older players who will almost certainly not play for their country again, including keeper Gianluigi Buffon, 39, who immediately announced his international retirement.

“The target was the World Cup. We will confront the problem with the federation, I can’t say any more than that at the moment.” --REUTERS

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