Gianfranco Zola says Italy's national team has prioritised results over performance to its detriment and could potentially benefit from failing to qualify for the World Cup.
The Azzurri under Gian Piero Ventura must negotiate a two-legged play-off against Sweden if they are to reach the finals in Russia next year.
Italy won the tournament in 2006 but failed to progress from the group stage in each of the last two editions of the World Cup.
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And Zola, who was capped 35 times by his country, feels the shock of missing out on the biggest event in international football might even do Italy some unexpected good.
In an interview with La Repubblica, he was asked if Italy failing to qualify should be considered a tragedy.
"Absolutely not," he replied.
"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."