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Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli all announce international retirement

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Italy v Sweden - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

We will see Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli on the same field together in relatively short order. They’re on the same club team and we just so happen to for that team, so it’s not like we’re suddenly not going to be rooting for them to succeed.

But it’s an end of an era at the international level for the three. And, unfortunately, it’s come in extremely difficult circumstances.

The defensive trio that has recorded hundreds upon hundreds of international caps all announced their retirement from the Italian national team after Italy’s 0-0 draw against Sweden on Monday night that saw the Azzurri fail to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

We knew this day was coming for Buffon, whose teary-eyed post-game interview will be played over and over again and be impossible to forget. If Italy had qualified for the World Cup in Russia like pretty much everybody expected them to do, then Buffon’s last game would have come in Russia. However, it will now come in a Juventus goalkeeper jersey. (What color it maybe be will be determined at a later date.)

Same goes for Barzagli, who could have very well retired after Italy’s run to the quarterfinals of the European Championship two summers ago.

I guess the one surprising one is Chiellini, who at 33 years of age still has plenty of good football left in his sometimes-injured body. And maybe that had something to do with his decision after the game. Maybe this is a decision for the future more than something that was the result of post-Sweden loss disappointment.

Either way and no matter how they arrived at their decision, these are three incredibly important players — and, to a much, much larger extent for Buffon — that have given so much of their careers to this Azzurri team. When Italy next takes the field as a team for a competitive match, they will have a new captain and starting goalkeeper as the game’s best ever steps aside. They will have to replace one of this generations best and most physical defenders in Chiellini as well as somebody in Barzagli who revitalized his career after his move to Juve to even get back into the national team’s picture.

It will be different, so very different.

And, considering how things went down over the two legs against Sweden, should be the first of many changes to go down regarding the Italian national team.