“Italy, this is the apocalypse,” was the headline in the country’s leading sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday morning, perhaps an understandable reaction for a nation whose passion for football is so great that the same publication concluded that “a love so great must be reserved for other things [than the World Cup]”.

Put in context the facts make stark reading. Italy’s abject failure in front of goal against Sweden, who held the Azzurri to a 0-0 draw in the San Siro stadium, meant the hosts lost 1-0 on aggregate and failed to qualify for the tournament for the first time in 60 years, when in 1958 the finals were, appropriately, hosted by the team who halted their progress on Monday.

Uruguay were the previous World Cup winners who failed to advance to the finals in 2006, but prior to that statisticians had to go back to 1994 when England and France were knocked out during qualification and before that another 20 years back to Spain in 1974.

La Gazzetta blamed “opportunities missed”. The paper’s editorial read: “We will not be with you and you will not be with us. Italy will not participate at the World Cup. There will be inevitable consequences.” Inevitably that will mean the departure of widely criticised head coach Gian Piero Ventura, who initially was mistakenly reported to have quit in the immediate aftermath of the match.

La Gazzetta were in no doubt: “Ventura, now it’s over,” identifying Carlo Ancelotti as one potential successor. The Italian is currently out of work after leaving Bayern Munich. “Whoever comes in will have to rebuild from rubble and work towards Euro 2020,” read the article. “The most fancied name is Ancelotti but there is the possibility [Chelsea manager Antonio] Conte will return, as he is a bit tired of England.

“Very welcome alternatives would be [Roberto] Mancini and [Massimiliano] Allegri, if they can leave their respective roles at Zenit St Petersburg and Juventus.”

An emotional Gianluigi Buffon waves to the fans after Italy’s World Cup exit in the San Siro.

An emotional Gianluigi Buffon waves to the fans after Italy’s World Cup exit in the San Siro. Photograph: Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images

The front page of the other major sports daily, Corriere dello Sport, read simply: “Italy out of the World Cup”, stating how painful it will be for the country to be on the sidelines when the finals are underway in Russia next June.

“In only a few months time we will be watching the World Cup for everyone else: for the first time in 60 years we will be on the outside,” the newspaper commented in an editorial piece. “It is an intolerable football shame, an indelibile stain.”

The online headline in the Italian broadsheet La Repubblica read simply: “Goodbye Russia”, while Turin’s La Stampa proclaimed: “Disaster for Italy, we won’t be going to the World Cup.”

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