Leonardo Bonucci has called the World Cup qualifying format “absurd” after Italy’s surprise failure to travel to Qatar.
The Italians failed to qualify for a second consecutive World Cup as they were beaten 1-0 at home to North Macedonia, who are now 90 minutes from the final but need to beat Portugal to qualify .
Winners Italy could qualify for the World Cup for the first time when they tie against Portugal at Porto’s Estadio Do Dragao on Tuesday night.
As if that wasn’t a big enough prize, Blagoja Milevski’s side have also been promised a €500,000 (£421,000) bonus from the country’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski if they seal victory over Cristiano. Ronaldo and co.
The European champions found themselves in the play-offs after draws with Bulgaria, Switzerland and Northern Ireland in their group, finishing second behind the Swiss.
However, Bonucci, who mocked England after the Euro 2020 final, instead began to openly criticize the play-off system.
“We played it all in one game, it’s an absurd system,” said the 34-year-old.
“Unfortunately, that’s how it happened, but it’s a crazy decision.
Paul Chuckle rides onto the Wembley turf on a moped to deliver the Papa John Trophy
“You have to play a single game in which anything can happen as we have seen.
“There are teams that have qualified after losing four or five games, we are at home after only losing one in the 92nd minute. It’s really madness.
“Clearly the settlement is not an alibi or an excuse, we certainly had to do better. But from there, we must inspire ourselves to find our way back to where we were.
“There were a lot of thoughts. Admittedly, after Euro 2020, we got a little lost. It jeopardized our path to the World Cup.
Despite his frustration after missing out on what was likely his last opportunity to play in the competition, Bonucci remained optimistic about the future of Italian football.
“The 48 hours after the elimination were really hard, we found ourselves with our mouths shut and in silence at lunch and in the locker room.
“We tried to play it down with the young players saying they will have other opportunities and then Mancini spoke up and we reconnected to the present and the future.
“We have to start rebuilding again, the bases for a good ascent are there.”
Updates on Portugal v North Macedonia will be broadcast live on talkSPORT, while talkSPORT.com will host a live blog for all the action.
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