Cannavaro: Italy cannot afford to miss another World Cup
Italy great Fabio Cannavaro insists the Azzurri cannot afford to fail to qualify for two consecutive World Cups.
The reigning European champions could not top their World Cup qualifying group, leaving them having to beat North Macedonia in the playoffs semi-final on Thursday to keep their hopes alive.
Italy would then have to bypass either Turkey or Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in the final to secure their spot at Qatar 2022, which means one of the previous two European Championship winners will not be present at the World Cup.
Robert Mancini's reinvigorated Azzurri responded to failure to qualify for FIFA's showpiece event in 2018 by lifting the delayed Euro 2020, and Cannavaro explained that it is vital that they find a way through this year.
"Between us and qualifying for Qatar there could be Portugal, but also Turkey would not be a walk in the park," Cannavaro, who won the World Cup in 2006, told Italian newspaper Il Mattino.
"And even before that in Palermo, we must beat [North] Macedonia. We threw away a chance in Rome against Switzerland [in the group stages], there is no way we can not qualify for the World Cup for eight years.
"It would be a disaster for everyone. Mancini will find the resources to be able to qualify."
While Italy push for World Cup qualification, Russia will not be featuring in Qatar after FIFA excluded them due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, a decision Cannavaro supports.
When asked if FIFA had made the right call, he added: "Yes. Football is not a world apart. It had to give a signal and it did."