Italy great Fabio Cannavaro insists the Azzurri cannot afford to fail to qualify for two consecutive World Cups.
The reigning European champions have not been able to climb to the top of their World Cup qualifiers, leaving them to beat North Macedonia in the playoffs on Thursday to keep their hopes alive.
Italy will have to beat Turkey or Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo in the final to secure their place in Qatar 2022, meaning one of the two former European Championship winners will not be at the World Cup.
Revitalized Robert Mancini’s Azzurri responded by failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup by raising the delayed Euro 2020, and Cannavaro explained that it was important for them to find a way this year.
“Between us and qualifying for Qatar there may be Portugal, but also Turkey will not be able to walk in the park,” Cannavaro, who won the 2006 World Cup, told Italian newspaper Il Mattino.
“And even before that in Palermo, we have to beat [North] Macedonia. We missed the opportunity in Rome to play Switzerland [in the group stage], there is no way we can qualify for the World Cup for eight years.
“It could be a disaster for everyone. Mancini will get the resources she needs to qualify.”
While Italy is pushing for a World Cup qualifier, Russia will not play in Qatar after FIFA expelled them due to ongoing Ukraine attacks, a decision supported by Cannavaro.
When asked if FIFA made the right call, he added: “Yes. Football is not a separate country. It should have given a signal and it did.”