Marco Verratti has issued a plea for understanding after Italy's shock World Cup qualifying exit while asking reporters to "leave the younger players alone".
Italy suffered a shock defeat 1-0 against North Macedonia in Palermo on Thursday that saw them knocked out of the 2022 World Cup qualifying play-offs.
Roberto Mancini's side dominated the game but failed to make the most of their chances and ended up being punished when Aleksandar Trajkovski hit a stunning long-range winner in stoppage time.
What's been said?
Verratti played the full 90 minutes at the Stadio Renzo Barbera and says the final result has been hard to deal with for the whole squad, particularly after their European Championship triumph last summer which initially raised their confidence about heading to Qatar this year.
“When you win, it’s easy to thank everyone,” The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder wrote on Instagram.
“I want to do it today after an elimination that will deny us the most wonderful and exciting competition for us players, but above all for all the Italian fans around the world.
“I want to thank everyone, staff, players and all those who work with passion and enthusiasm around the Nazionale.
“Unfortunately, in life and in football, it doesn’t always go the way your expectations, objectives and dreams had planned it.
“The disappointment is immense, but we already showed that with work, passion and heart, anything is possible. So in life or in football, just like after a great victory last summer or a huge defeat, we must continue fighting.
“Football is our passion and I am sure we’ll continue to give our all to earn more satisfying moments together.”
What's next for Italy?
Italy will have the opportunity to get back to winning ways and start putting the disappointment of missing out on a second successive World Cup behind them when they come up against Turkey in a friendly clash on Tuesday.
Mancini's side can then look forward to the 'Finalissima' against 2020 Copa America winners Argentina on June 1, and Verratti has called on the media to go easy on the younger members of the squad as the healing process begins.
“One last thing: I don’t think the best way to deal with this is to insult everyone, because each of us tried to give our all. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough," he added.
“Above all, please leave the younger players alone, if you really want to, insult us ‘older’ guys, because sometimes you forget we are just people like you, normal folks, and that we too feel the biggest emotions in the smallest things."