'Italian football is not sick' - Pirlo defends underperforming Azzurri

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The 38-year-old played 116 times for his country, and insists that the national team is not in crisis after a series of disappointing displays

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.

Italy 4/6 in Albania

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.

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"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."

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