FIFA president Gianni Infantino has branded Italy’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as “a beautiful blow”.
The four-time champions are set to miss out on a global showpiece for the first time in 60 years, with the 1958 finals in Sweden representing the last time they came up short.
A thorough investigation in what went wrong has already been opened in Italian football, and Infantino believes that could be considered a good thing as a fallen giant seeks to rebuild.
He told Sport Mediaset: “A World Cup without Italy? The fact that Italy didn’t qualify for the World Cup was a beautiful blow for all of Italian football.
“They must work hard and find the strengths and resources needed to start over. In Italy, there’s passion, talent, preparation and structure, so everyone must start by putting aside their own interests and focus on those of Italian football in order to re-establish its tradition.
“The Azzurri shirt moves not only Italians but also football in general. That jersey deserves to remain one of the best.
“Now they have competent people working and if they need FIFA, we’re here to help. It’s important for the world of football that Italy are strong.”
While Italy will have to watch on from afar this summer, Infantino is confident that an eagerly anticipated event in Russia will provide plenty of thrills and spills.
He added: “It’ll be an absolutely spectacular World Cup, the most beautiful in history.
“I’ve been to Russia a lot lately and realised the Russian people want to show that theirs is a country that knows how to welcome fans from all over the world.
“One and a half million people will arrive: they’ll be able to do so without a visa, there will be free transport in the host cities and free access to museums thanks to the match tickets.
“The stadiums are beautiful and for the whole country, it’ll be a matter of national pride, showing that they can organise a beautiful competition.
“It’ll be a beautiful and exciting party and we want people to come to Russia.”