Italy legend Andrea Pirlo has defended the Azzurri's poor form and rejected claims the state of football in his homeland is in poor health.
Gian Piero Ventura's side limped to a 1-1 home draw with Macedonia on Friday, meaning they must navigate the play-offs in order to qualify for the World Cup.
If they do reach Russia 2018, Italy will be attempting to avoid a third successive group-stage exit following disappointing displays in 2010 and 2014.
But Germany 2006 champion Pirlo, who on Sunday announced his impending retirement from a decorated 22-year playing career, is confident results will soon improve.
"Italian football is not sick," the 38-year-old told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"It's true that we have had two bad exits from the World Cup, but in the middle we had two great Euro campaigns with a final and a good showing in France. With a little more luck, we could have gone right to the end in France.
"There is currently a changing of the guard that happened with Germany, France and Spain as well.
"Once it's over, you will have a more prolific period and start winning again."