Former Italy coach Cesare Maldini, who was in charge of the team at the 1998 World Cup, has told the press that he believes the current crop of Italian defenders are short on quality.
"At this time [coach Cesare] Prandelli may find it difficult to assemble a team with so many new players," the father of Milan legend Paolo explained to Radio Blu.
"When you are playing in qualifiers you cannot be patient for results because the team must qualify for the European championships.
"For four years I have been saying this generation has serious problems in defence, the Under-21 team has produced few quality defenders and the results are evident. There are no longer [Fabio] Cannavaro, [Ciro] Ferrara, [Alessandro] Nesta, and Maldini."
The tactician called all four of those defenders named to his squad for France '98, but was eventually defeated in a penalty shoot-out versus les Bleus in the quarter-finals.
The Azzurri face Estonia to kick-off their EURO 2012 qualifying campaign on Friday evening at 20:30 CET.