What is the World Cup without Italy? For football fans it is unfathomable. So, when Italy failed to qualify for the tournament for the first time since 1958, the news did not go down very well.
People took to social media to vent their frustration as Italy were beaten 1-0 on aggregate by Sweden.
Words like “disbelief”, “shock”, “devastated” and “disgrace” were used in abundance amid the realisation the Azzurri – who have provided some of the tournament highlights over the decades – would not be part of the competition next year in Russia.
As Italy fans discussed what went wrong, Swedish fans delighted in their victory. Images featuring pizza, Ikea furniture, and meatballs began emerging as football fans visualised the Italian defeat.
“I can’t believe it,” posted one Italy fan. “A World Cup without Italia is like pizza without cheese.”
The analogy was quickly rebuked with the reply: “There are plenty of pizzas without cheese.”
Actor, presenter and Italy fan Paolo Ruffini asked: “What the hell are we going to do next summer?”