Outgoing captain Fabio Cannavaro insists changes are needed in Italian football or the international team could face a lengthy wait before regaining the FIFA World Cup™.
An ageing Italy side crashed out of the 2010 tournament at the group stage on Thursday with a 3-2 defeat by Slovakia and the match marked the end of the international road for 36-year-old Cannavaro, who made 136 appearances for the Azzurri and led them to FIFA World Cup glory in 2006.
Coach Marcello Lippi insisted all the blame for the shock early exit should be laid at his door, but Cannavaro sees the problem as bigger than the failings of one man.
He said: "Every country has its problems. Our mechanisms must change. Just look at our stadiums and the culture that we have, when we look at the game we've got to focus on young people.
"Otherwise you have trouble, as happened to us yesterday. In our football several things need to change otherwise we will not win the World Cup again for 25 years."
The match was also Lippi's last as national coach, with his second spell ending on a crushing low after the dazzling high of FIFA World Cup success four years ago had signalled the end of his first stint in charge.
The new man coming in is former Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli, and Cannavaro thinks the new man will have a tough task on his hands. "He's good, but he will have much work to do," the defender told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"The qualifying matches for UEFA EURO 2012 are difficult, and the replacements to come in are few. Football is made of cycles of generations. The current generation has good elements, but it is not first rate."
Cannavaro insisted the 3-2 defeat by tournament debutants Slovakia was the worst performance he had been part of in 14 years as a national team player. "Thursday was one of the ugliest nights ever," he said. "There was insecurity, fear. Slovakia played calmly, not us. (In) the faces of my team-mates there was too much tension. The match on Thursday was our worst."
Lippi was criticised for relying too heavily on the class of 2006 and for leaving out talents like Sampdoria forward Antonio Cassano, but Cannavaro doubted whether his presence, or that of precocious Inter Milan star Mario Balotelli, would have made much difference.
"With Cassano we played two European Championships and we did not win. Balotelli is interesting, but has yet to demonstrate much."