Gianfranco Zola claims Italy not qualifying for the World Cup would “absolutely not” be a tragedy but admits they “lack quality”.
Italy must overcome Sweden over two legs in order to reach the Russian showpiece next summer, but Zola suggested it would take ‘disappointment’ for the country to emulate Germany, who won the World Cup just 14 years after they endured an early exit from Euro 2000.
“Tragedy in the event we don’t qualify? Absolutely not,” the 51-year-old – who scored 10 goals in 35 caps for the Azzurri between 1991 and 1997 – told La Repubblica.
“I remember when Germany were eliminated from Euro 2000. That disappointment acted as the catalyst for real change. German football is back at the top.
“[Italy] teams have been focusing on the result and not the performance for too long. There’s also a lack of quality: in my time, there were seven or eight alternatives in my position.
“Now Italy are struggling to produce creative players. Spain, on the other hand, have so many ‘fantasisti’ and they all get to play.
“Permier League? The intensity of English matches is incredible. In the past, we were superior tactically, but the Premier League has since taken giant steps in this regard.
“Scudetto? Napoli will win it if they can play their game until the end of the season.”