Sweden managed to grind out a goalless draw at the San Siro this evening to ensure they reached next summer's major tournament courtesy of a 1-0 aggregate victory.
The Italy players, who along with their 69-year-old coach Gian Piero Ventura, are likely to face long inquests, collapsed onto the pitch in despair at the final whistle and even veterans such as Giorgio Chiellini were inconsolable.
With Italy searching for a vital goal, television cameras captured a member of Ventura's backroom staff telling De Rossi to warm up.
In a video of the incident, the Roma captain screams, "Why the f*** should I go on? We don't need to draw, we need to win!" Buffon was also an unused substitute at a sixth World Cup in 1998.
Speaking at the end of the game Buffon apologised to the Italian fans.
"It wasn't up to me whether it was a tactical issue".
"At the time I just thought perhaps it was better that Insigne come on instead".
The Italians, who had not missed the World Cup since the 1958 finals in Sweden, had 75% of possession, squandered numerous opportunities and had penalty appeals turned down in its increasingly desperate search for an equaliser.
An appearance at Russian Federation 2018 would have seen the 39-year-old equal the record of five World Cups, a mark previously reached by Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal and Germany midfielder Lothar Matthaus.