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Mitch's Sports Report: Inconcepibile! Italy's Men's Soccer Team Fails To Make World Cup Cut

If misery loves company, perhaps the American and Italian men's soccer teams should get together for a drink.

Last month the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup, and while that was a devastating blow within the community of soccer-loving fans in the United States, that community doesn't encompass the entire country. In Italy, it does, and after a scoreless draw against Sweden yesterday, the Italian men's soccer team finds itself without an invitation to next year's World Cup in Russia, the first time Italy has failed to make the cut for the world's biggest sporting event since 1958 and only the second time in the country's history.  

Italy was playing the second leg of back to back contests against Sweden and needed just one win to get in, but they lost the first leg 1-0 on a fluke goal that deflected in for Sweden, and the scoreless draw in the second leg sealed Italy's sad fate, while the Swedes are crying tears of joy instead, qualifying with the win and draw for their first World Cup appearance since 2006.

The Italian ouster is a bitter enough pill to swallow, but also marks an ignominious end to the career of the national team's beloved goal-keeper, 39-year old Gianluigi Buffon, who retires without getting one last crack at World Cup glory. The veteran keeper made 175 appearances for his country in a 20-year career, and did backstop the Italians to a World Cup victory in 2006. But this was not how he wanted to go out.

To football as it's called here in America, and while there are eleven men on each side of the ball you can be forgiven for thinking the Carolina Panthers had just one on the field for offense last night when they took on the Miami Dolphins. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton pretty much beat the Dolphins on his own last night, throwing four touchdowns and rushing for 95 yards, all part of a Panthers franchise-record 548 yards on the night, and a 45-21 pummeling of the Dolphins in Charlotte. It was the third straight win for Carolina as they improve to 7-3 on the year. The Dolphins, after a decent start to the season, are trending in the other direction, now at 4-5 and like everyone else in the AFC east, staring up longingly at the first place New England Patriots.

In the NBA tonight, the Boston Celtics will try to stretch their winning streak to a baker's dozen, taking on the Brooklyn Nets in New York. After losing their first two games of the season and their all-star forward Gordon Hayward for the season five minutes into their first game, the Celtics have rattled off twelve straight victories and boast the league's best record.

In the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens have won seven of their last ten games after a rough start to the season, and host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at the Bell Centre.

Off season baseball news, and no real shocker in the hardware handed out for rookies of the year in the American and National leagues. New York Yankees outfielder and Paul Bunyan stunt double Aaron Judge wins the A.L. award, the first time a Yankee rookie has been so honored since Derek Jeter in 1996.

The senior circuit award went to L.A. Dodgers phenom Cody Bellinger, who set a National League rookie home run record with 39 this past season. Judge blew the field away for round trippers in the American League in 2017 with 52, and may not be done collecting trophies yet, as he's also a finalist for the league's Most Valuable Player award. If he can pull that off, he'll join just two other players in the history of the American League to win both honors: Ichiro Suzuki with the Seattle Mariners in 2001, and Fred Lynn, who won both in his inaugural season with the Boston Red Sox in 1975.

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