Italy's failure to get by Sweden in their World Cup qualifying playoff appears to be the last act for a number of Azzurri staples.
Veteran Italy trio Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele de Rossi and Andrea Barzagli have joined legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in calling time on their international careers following Italy's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Monday night's 0-0 draw with Sweden in Milan was enough for the Swedes to preserve a slender 1-0 aggregate from the first leg of the playoff contest, with the Scandinavians booking their place on the global stage in Russia at the expense of the four-time champions.
The 39-year-old Buffon had intended to retire from all football after the tournament, just as France icon Zinedine Zidane did back in 2006, but his 20-year senior international career has been brought to an end a few months early. He will now retire at the end of the 2017/18 club season.
Chiellini, De Rossi and Barzagli, aged 33, 34 and 36 respectively, have all also chosen to now take a step back and allow a new generation to take up the mantle moving forward.
De Rossi, Barzagli and Buffon were all part of Italy's World Cup winning squad in 2006, while Chiellini made his major tournament debut two years later at Euro 2008.
Between them, the four men have represented the Azzurri 461 times. Buffon's 175 caps is an Italian and European record, with ex-Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas the only other European with more than 150 senior international caps to his name.
"I'm not sorry for myself but all of the Italian football movement. We failed with our aim which could have also been really important on a social level. This is the only regret that I have, even if my last competitive game coincides with failure to qualify for the World Cup," Buffon said (FIGC.it)
Chiellini said of his future, "I don't know if Italy will go again with Chiellini, the team will start again with a lot of guys born in the 1990s. In the end, we deserved to go out."
De Rossi said his 'adventure finishes here', explaining, "It's a black moment for Italian football and a really dark one for us players who were a part of the past two years. The Federation now has an important job to start again from such a moment of painful disappointment."
For Barzagli, "I think this is biggest disappointment of my life in football. The Italian National Team gives you unique sensations, you have goosebumps during the anthem as you're united with the fans. It's a shame to finish like that."
Coach Gian Piero Ventura is yet to make a decision on his future and insisted at a post-match press conference that he must first sit down and discuss things with Italian Federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio before anything else happens.
"Have I resigned? No, because I haven't even spoken with the President. There's an infinite number of things to evaluate, we'll speak with the Federation, we'll evaluate the situation."