Federico Bernardeschi feels Italy’s young players must try to atone for their World Cup qualification failure, as Giorgio Chiellini considers retiring from international duty.
The Azzurri were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Sweden in Milan on Monday, losing their play-off 1-0 on aggregate.
Next year’s tournament in Russia will be the first World Cup without Italy since 1958 and the crushing disappointment experienced at San Siro saw Gianluigi Buffon, Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Barzagli all confirm their retirement from the national team.
Bernardeschi, a 23-year-old Juventus team-mate of Buffon, Barzagli and Chiellini, has just 13 caps for Italy and keenly felt the burden of responsibility in the wake of the team’s demise.
“I want to make an appeal to the ‘senators’ of the squad, because they did not deserve this,” he told RAI Sport.
“Today a piece of Italian football history is leaving, important champions who wrote their names in stone for both calcio [Italian football] and the sport worldwide.
“I thank them with all my heart and now it’s up to us youngsters to take on their example and bring as many victories as possible to this national team.
“We begin again with our heads held high, proud to be Italian and to take these colours to the top.”
Chiellini acknowledged Italy did not do enough to book passage to next year’s finals and expressed his desire to see the younger crop use this painful experience to lay the foundation for better results at Euro 2020, although it remains to be seen if he will be involved.
“I don’t know if I will be playing with Italy again,” the 33-year-old told RAI Sport.
“At the end of the day it was deserved.
“I am not someone who clings to good luck or the referee, we compliment Sweden. We gave everything we had, but evidently at this moment it was not enough and they deserved it more than we did.
“We must [build on] from the love shown to us from Milan, but also the whole nation. We were truly proud of everything around us and therefore even more disappointed not to get the result.
“We have many young lads who, over the next few years, will need this same love and support. It’s a long road ahead and, after a fall like this, there is much work to be done.
“Over the last three years or so we have asked for this love to never leave the national team. Italy will begin again from Marco Verratti and many other lads born in the 1990s who will be mature for the next Euros, which fortunately we’ll have some games at home.
“I am certain that if what we saw tonight can be built on, it will be seen as a zero hour. Italy hadn’t missed the World Cup in 60 years, so clearly it is a sea change. Football belongs to everyone and we all want to create a new era.”
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