The four-time World Cup winners had to win but failed before a sell-out crowd at the San Siro stadium in Milan on Monday, November 13, against Sweden to book a place in the final. For football fans it is unfathomable.
The four-time champions were knocked out by Sweden in a play-off qualifier.
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 Russian Federation.
As Italy fans discussed what went wrong, Swedish fans delighted in their victory. "Otherwise I don't think one should have this discussion", defender Ludwig Augustinsson said after the Italy game.
"It is really very sad because watching the World Cup was something that really brought us together as Italians", said recent graduate Stefania Pusateri, heading for the exit after watching the match in a Rome bar.
The analogy was quickly rebuked with the reply, "There are plenty of pizzas without cheese". "Let's make sure this helps us undertake radical change, immediately", he said.
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"Not for me, but for the football movement, because we failed at something that could've been truly important for the country".
Others offered alternative reasons as to why Italy failed to qualify.
Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who heads the ruling Democratic Party, dismissed Salvini as an opportunist, saying his argument was ridiculous. Italy will not participate at the World Cup. Weigh in on the reasons why you think Italy did not qualify, as well as which retiring player the Azzurri will miss most, in our poll below.
Following the match, an emotional captain Gianluigi Buffon said: "I am not sorry for myself but all of Italian football".
The game was also Italy team captain Gianluigi Buffon's last worldwide appearance.
Many congratulated Sweden, while some suggested an alternative "mini-tournament" with the Netherlands and the U.S., who have also failed to qualify.