Legendary former Italy goalkeeper Dino Zoff admitted that it was the image of Gianluigi Buffon crying that really brought home to him what Italy's World Cup qualifying meltdown meant.
The Azzurri drew 0-0 with Sweden on Monday to crash out of the running for next year's finals in Russia, losing 1-0 on aggregate.
It was the first time in over 60 years that Italy have failed to qualify for a World Cup, and marks the end of an era for several players in the team.
Buffon, Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Barzagli have already retired from international duty in the wake of the disaster, and it is the Juventus goalkeeper's anguish that most stuck with Zoff.
“Seeing Buffon cry saddened me," the 1982 World Cup winner, who also represented Juve with distinction for over a decade, told Goal .
"Gigi is already a legend and he will realise it. Time, unfortunately, passes for everyone. But he has written important pages of football history.
"I still have a hard time believing that Italy will not go to the World Cup. This elimination, after 60 years, hurts so much."
When asked what was behind this historic elimination, Zoff pointed the finger at a collapse in team morale following defeat to Spain.
“I think the defeat against Spain has created a negative atmosphere," he explained.
"After the match in Madrid, the group lost its confidence and the games that they played after were not positive. The team was not able to meet the expectations”.
But Zoff, who resigned as Italy coach in the wake of a poor Euro 2000 campaign, did not rush to call for the head of current incumbent Gian Piero Ventura.
“I took that decision after careful consideration. I don't want to judge the thoughts of other people. Everyone has their own opinion," he said.
"Italy have to leave the chaos behind, naming possible new coaches would make little sense. Leading the national team is always important, they have to make the right choice.
"Italy have some very talented young players. We have to start trusting them and be hopeful about them.”