Roberto Mancini has tipped Argentina to win their third World Cup as Lionel Messi and team-mates chase glory in Qatar.
Mancini’s Italy side will not be involved after a shock 1-0 play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March.
Italy’s absence from Qatar comes despite them being the reigning European champions, having beaten England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final.
That triumph subsequently saw them face off against Argentina in the UEFA/CONMEBOL Finalissima at Wembley in June, after Lionel Scaloni’s men won the Copa America.
Argentina comfortably beat Italy 3-0, and Mancini says that performance plays a part in him ranking them as favourites for the World Cup.
“There are many strong teams,” Mancini told reporters. “If I had to choose one, I’d go for Argentina.
“They really impressed when we played each other.”
Italy have won their last three matches as they look to get over World Cup disappointment, most recently seeing off Albania in a 3-1 friendly victory on Wednesday. They face another game against Austria on Sunday.
Mancini is still upset about the failure to reach Qatar, but he has been pleased with his team’s reaction, saying: “We immediately showed a desire to fight back, winning a Nations League group that was by no means easy ahead of Germany, Hungary and England.
“Unfortunately, we’ll have to keep this suffering until mid-December when the tournament is over. Next time, we need to be more precise.”