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 By Chris Wright

Buffon and Rakitic's warm embrace following Italy's World Cup nightmare

With retirement impending, it looks like Gianluigi Buffon's stellar 20-year career is set to end on a slightly hollow note after Italy squandered their chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Indeed, Italy lost 1-0 to Sweden across two legs in their playoff clash, with Buffon cutting a dejected figure after the final whistle of the goalless second leg at the San Siro.

The sight of the legendary keeper weeping down the camera was enough to melt even the iciest heart, with Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic summing up the general feeling.

"When I saw Buffon in tears, I wanted to give him my spot in the World Cup," Rakitic said.

"If I could, I would. He deserves it. What he has done in football is incredible".

Jordi Alba echoed the sentiment, with the Barca full-back lamenting that it is a "crime" Buffon and the Azzurri won't be competing in Russia next summer.

Having stumbled across the quotes, the veteran goalkeeper got a little misty-eyed when replying to both Rakitic and Alba on Twitter.

While thanking Rakitic for his kind words, Buffon (with tongue in cheek) questioned the wisdom of pairing him, an almost 40-year-old goalkeeper, alongside Luka Modric in midfield for Croatia.

How positively adorable.

Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.

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