Paulo Dybala should have demanded a one-year contract to prove his worth to Juventus if he was happy in Turin, according to former Bianconeri boss Fabio Capello.

Argentina international Dybala is set to see his time at the Allianz Stadium comes to its conclusion when his contract expires at the end of the season.

The forward has 113 goals across all competitions for Juve, ranking him third all-time among the club’s non-Italian scorers, behind only David Trezeguet (171) and John Hansen (124).

Fellow Serie A competitors Inter and Premier League side Tottenham, managed by former Nerazzurri coach Antonio Conte, are reportedly among the favourites to secure Dybala's signature for the next campaign.

But Capello believes if the 28-year-old was settled at Juve then he should have pleaded with the club for another chance, while he heaped praise on Massimiliano Allegri's new star striker Dusan Vlahovic.

"I like Vlahovic, he has pace, physical strength and desire to improve," he told Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport. "He knows how to work for the team and stay inside the box.

"But Max [Allegri] is right when he says that he must learn how to play in a top club, managing the pressure and the different phases in a game.

"You can't question Dybala technically, but he has had some fitness issues. If he was happy in Turin, he should have challenged Juventus. Ask them for a one-year contract and show how much he's worth.

"The same goes for [Roma forward Nicolo] Zaniolo. He suffered two serious injuries and remained out for 18 months. He must rediscover self-confidence because he has the technical skills."

 

Capello also expressed his concern for the state of Italian football, with the Azzurri missing out on two straight World Cups and no Serie A side in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Roma and Atalanta are the only two Italian sides left in the Europa League, and former England manager Capello believes Italy are way behind their international competitors.

"Italian football is far behind the others. The ball doesn't move quickly, referees blow the whistle too often," he added. "They stop the play too frequently. Every challenge is a foul, so there is never intensity, our teams do not learn to keep up the pace.

"We have fallen behind, in every sense, but the main problem is that the best players no longer come to Italy, so there is no comparison with the best. 

"I don't learn anything if what should help me grow is of the same level as me, has my same knowledge, identical experiences"

Allegri acknowledged his reluctance to use young players in an interview on Friday, and the preference to utilise more experienced players is a problem thought to spread across the whole of the Italian game.

Capello expects no quick fixes as he cited the progression of other countries to learn from.

"Even eight. In Italy, everyone intervenes," he responded when asked if it would take five or six years to return Italy to the top of the footballing pyramid.

"As for youth sectors, those in charge should have a trip to Spain where they work on the technique, not on tactics."

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has called for Italian authorities to honour the legacy of Paolo Rossi by naming the Stadio Olimpico after the former forward.

Rossi scored six goals to claim the Golden Boot and Golden Ball as Italy lifted the 1982 World Cup, while he was awarded the Ballon d'Or in the same year – the only player to win all four trophies in the same year.

During that competition, Rossi guided his side into the knockout stages as his hat-trick propelled Italy to a 3-2 group-stage victory over a formidable Brazil team, which included legends Socrates and Zico.

Rossi still remains Italy's joint-top scorer at World Cups, with his nine goals only matched by fellow attackers Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri.

The former Vicenza and Juventus striker died aged 64 in 2020, and Infantino implored the Italian Football Federation (IFF) to mark Rossi's legacy by naming Lazio and Roma's Olimpico stadium after him.

"What are we waiting for to name the Olimpico after Paolo Rossi? There isn't another Italian who has given more to this sport," he said on Monday at an event to remember former IFF president Artemio Franchi.

"So, please I'm saying this to all the directors here. Please, help us, I think Paolo deserves it."

Infantino also recalled a meeting with former referee Abraham Klein, who officiated the meeting between Italy and Brazil in 1982 and ruled out what would have been Italy's fourth goal through Giancarlo Antognoni.

"Among other things, he admitted that Antognoni's goal [that was disallowed for offside] was valid, so let's rectify the result, it ended 4-2," he added on Klein before discussing the legacy of Franchi.

"I am president of FIFA, who for the first time in its history has appointed a woman general secretary. These are the values ​​that football gives and that we managers must protect, as did Artemio Franchi.

"It means listening, but also making decisions and acting: without this, Italy probably would not have won the European Championships and would not have qualified for the World Cup, UEFA would not have taken the steps it took at a time when Europe was uniform.

"As leaders, we must always seek, with diplomacy and emotion to bring the sport back to play this very important role of giving emotions to people."

Juventus midfielder Manuel Locatelli faces up to a month out of action after the midfielder sustained a knee injury in the 1-0 loss against Inter on Sunday.

The Italy international, who tested positive for COVID-19 in March, started in the Derby d'Italia but suffered a knock in the first half and was replaced by Denis Zakaria after just 34 minutes.

Bianconeri head coach Massimiliano Allegri appeared unworried by the damage to the 24-year-old after the match, but Juve provided another update on Monday.

Scans have confirmed a problem in the ligament of Locatelli's right knee that is estimated to keep him out for a month, which means he will likely miss Serie A clashes with Cagliari, Bologna, Sassuolo and Venezia.

Locatelli will also be absent for the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final on April 20 against Fiorentina, who lost the first meeting 1-0, as Juve look to defend their title.

He has played an integral role this season for Allegri's side, who sit fourth in Serie A after their 16-game league unbeaten run ended against Inter.

Indeed, only Alvaro Morata (30) has featured in more top-flight games than Locatelli for Juve this campaign (29), while Juan Cuadrado (1,283) and Matthijs de Ligt (1,317) are the only players to complete more passes than him (1,141).

Locatelli has won 15 of the Serie A games he has appeared in this term, with De Ligt, Morata, Cuadrado and Moise Kean (all 16) the only players to boast better returns.

Juve will be hoping that Zakaria, Adrien Rabiot and Arthur can step up in Locatelli's absence when they visit Cagliari on Saturday.

The qualification campaign for the 2022 World Cup is all but over.

Some key matches still have to be played, with Wales yet to find out their fate as they wait to face the winner of Scotland's play-off with Ukraine, which has been postponed due to Russia's invasion of the country, while there are inter-confederation play-offs also to be decided.

In total, 28 nations have qualified already, and most of football's star names will be present.

That being said, while France's world champions will bid to defend their crown, Neymar will bring the Brazilian stardust, Lionel Messi will look to build on Argentina's Copa America triumph and Cristiano Ronaldo will feature at a record-equalling fifth tournament, some huge players - and indeed teams, in the case of Italy - will not be present in Qatar.

Stats Perform has looked at some of the star players who will be watching the tournament from home.

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Arguably the best player in the world this season, Salah will not be lighting up Qatar with any mazy runs or sensational strikes. Given the tournament is in the middle of next season, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp may secretly be pleased his talisman will not be risking injury or fatigue, but Salah – who blazed his penalty over in the decisive shoot-out against Senegal on Tuesday – will be a big miss.

 

James Rodriguez (Colombia)

A star of the 2014 World Cup, in which he won the golden boot, James Rodriguez scored Colombia's winner against Venezuela on Tuesday, yet Peru's victory over Paraguay meant the ex-Real Madrid playmaker and his team-mates will not appear in Qatar, where James currently plies his trade for Al-Rayyan.

Luis Diaz, who has made a flying start to life at Liverpool since joining from Porto in January, is another Colombian talent who will be watching on from the sidelines.

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

The hero of Italy's Euro 2020 triumph with his saves in the penalty shoot-out victory over England last July, Donnarumma – one of Europe's best goalkeepers – will be watching on from afar along with the rest of Roberto Mancini's players. After his error in Paris Saint-Germain's capitulation against Madrid in the Champions League, March has been a sour month for the 23-year-old.

Georgio Chiellini (Italy)

While Donnarumma has time on his side to make it to the next World Cup, the same cannot be said for Giorgio Chiellini. The centre-back is 37 and will surely not be featuring at another major tournament for Italy now.

Defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci may also fall into that category, given he turns 35 in May, while 29-year-old playmaker Marco Verratti may also have seen his final chance of appearing at the World Cup for a second time dashed.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

It was the battle of two of Europe's leading marksmen of the last decade on Tuesday, as Poland went head-to-head with Sweden, and it was Robert Lewandowski and Co. who came out on top, winning 2-0.

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski opened the scoring from the penalty spot, and though Ibrahimovic came on as a late substitute, he could not turn the tide in Sweden's favour. The Milan striker has suggested he wants to carry on playing for his country, but at 40, surely this was his last chance of appearing at a World Cup.

Erling Haaland (Norway)

Although Ibrahimovic may be approaching the tail-end of his career, Haaland is certainly not. Yet like the Swede, the Borussia Dortmund forward will not be playing in Qatar either.

Indeed, even if Norway had made it through their qualification group, it is uncertain as to whether or not the players would have chosen to boycott the tournament, having previously made their feelings on Qatar's human rights record clear. But they finished third in Group G anyway.

Arsenal playmaker Martin Odegaard is another bright Norweigian talent, though the Scandinavian nation may well fancy their chances heading towards Euro 2024 and the 2026 World Cup.

 

David Alaba (Austria)

Madrid defender Alaba could not inspire Austria to victory in their play-off clash with Wales, with Gareth Bale's double doing the damage. After a glittering career with Bayern, Alaba is on course to win LaLiga with Los Blancos, but any form of real, tangible success on the international stage looks set to avoid him.

Jan Oblak (Slovenia)

Oblak's form has dipped this season for Atletico Madrid but on his day he is still right up there among the world's best goalkeepers, though he could not help Slovenia finish higher than fourth in their qualification group, as their wait to qualify for a first World Cup since 2010 rolled on.

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini hailed the response of his young side in their narrow 3-2 victory over Turkey.

The Azzurri got back to winning ways five days after their World Cup qualifying hopes were shattered following a shock defeat by North Macedonia in Palermo.

Mancini made 10 changes for the friendly against their fellow beaten playoff semi-finalists, with Gianluigi Donnarumma the sole survivor between the sticks.

Although the reigning European champions fell behind to an early Cengiz Under strike, they turned things around with Giacomo Raspadori scoring twice in just his third senior international start, while Bryan Cristante was also on target for the visitors.

Fellow youngsters Sandro Tonali, Nicolo Zaniolo and Gianluca Scamacca were also handed opportunities from the start, and Mancini was pleased with the way his much-changed side acquitted themselves.

"It was pointless in terms of competition. But if you need to do things, you need to do them properly, even amid negative circumstances," the coach told RAI Sport.

"The younger lads did well and that is pleasing. It was nice to see the reaction when we want 1-0 down too, as it was fiery here. 

"The fans made it a great atmosphere, so we did well to keep cool and take control after the opening 15 minutes.

"It was the first time many of them had played together, so it was not easy. These are young players, we need time, and it was not an easy situation. I am glad they did well.

"Even if unfortunately, we are not where we wanted to be, the reaction from the squad was strong. We will have regrets all the way until December."

Despite their qualifying disappointment, Cristante insisted it was imperative that he and his team-mates demonstrated strength in the face of adversity.

"It was important that we show a strong reaction after that bad start," he added. 

"We had to put in a good performance and turn the page straight away.

"We are disappointed, but we know in football there isn’t much time to feel sorry for yourself.

"We've got to reboot, and we know that we are a strong team."

Giacamo Raspadori scored twice as Italy bounced back from their World Cup qualifying disappointment with a 3-2 victory over Turkey.

The Sassuolo forward struck in each half for Roberto Mancini's side in the battle of two beaten playoff semi-finalists at in Konya.

Cengiz Under had given the hosts an early lead that was cancelled out by Bryan Cristante's header, while Serdar Dursun netted a late consolation for Stefan Kuntz's men.

The reigning European champions maintained their unbeaten record against Turkey, having now avoided defeat in all 13 meetings between the sides.

Although lacking the firepower of Burak Yilmaz, who immediately announced his international retirement after the defeat to Portugal, Turkey took the lead after just four minutes.

Marseille winger Under – on loan from Serie A side Roma – drifted away from Giorgio Chiellini, before his shot squeezed under the dive of Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Italy responded in the 35th minute as Cristiano Biraghi's free-kick was powered home by the head of Cristante.

And the Azzurri completed the turnaround just three minutes later when Sandro Tonali fed Raspadori, who drilled past Altay Bayindir.

The Sassuolo striker grabbed his second in the 69th minute, neatly slotting home after Biraghi cushioned a looping cross into his stride.

Dursun halved the deficit when he scrambled home from a corner seven minutes from time.

It then took magnificent reflexes from Donnarumma to deny the Fenerbahce striker a dramatic equaliser soon after, as Kuntz's side suffered their first defeat in 12 on home soil.

Leonardo Bonucci has confirmed he will not retire from international football, while backing Roberto Mancini after Italy failed to qualify for a second straight World Cup.

Bonucci was part of Mancini's Azzurri side that responded to not making the 2018 World Cup in Russia by winning Euro 2020 late in July last year.

Italy also embarked on a world-record 37-game unbeaten run, which came to an end against Spain in the Nations League semi-final in October, as they aimed to reach Qatar 2022.

However, Mancini's team could not top their World Cup qualifying group and succumbed to a late 1-0 loss against North Macedonia as Aleksandar Trajkovski delivered the decisive strike in the play-off semi-final on Thursday.

That led to speculation over Mancini's tenure and doubts over whether the national team's senior players would continue into the twilight of their careers, but Bonucci has committed his future to Italy.

"I don't know what Giorgio [Chiellini] will do. On my end, I want to continue to be an example and guide the younger players coming through wearing this shirt," he said at a news conference on Monday.

"The hours after the elimination was tough. We remained quiet during our moments together, like team lunches or dinners. We tried to play down the disappointment by saying that young players will have other opportunities.

"After the coach spoke to us, we put the past behind us and looked to the future. The future is now so we must start to rebuild and get what we didn't achieve. We have a solid base to come back."

Italian Football Federation president Gabriele Gravina has suggested he would like Mancini to remain in charge, and Bonucci echoed his sentiments as he praised his manager.

"What the coach has given us in these three years is something unique," he continued. "There is an empathy that is rare to see at Coverciano [Italy's headquarters], continuing with Mancini is the only logical decision.

"His ideas and values are not under question. Anything can happen in a game and opinions can change, but we have been with him every day and want to continue it."

Roberto Mancini suggested he is likely to continue as Italy head coach despite the Azzurri missing out on a second straight World Cup.

Italy responded to failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia by winning Euro 2020 on penalties against England in late July last year, their first European Championship since 1968.

The Azzurri also embarked on a world record 37-game unbeaten run, which ended at the hands of Spain in the Nations League semi-final in October, as they looked to make Qatar 2022.

However, Mancini's side failed to top their World Cup qualifying group and could not get past North Macedonia on Thursday in the play-off semi-final as they fell to a late 1-0 loss in Palermo.

That led to speculation over the future of the former Manchester City boss, but Italian Football Federation president Gabriele Gravina assured he would like Mancini to stay at the helm.

Mancini has also reiterated his desire to remain in charge of the national side, a sentiment he echoed at Monday's pre-match news conference ahead of a third-place play-off clash with Turkey.

"I talked to Gravina; we are aligned on everything," Mancini said. "Let's think about this match, then calmly we will think about everything, to understand what to improve in the future.

He added: "There are important national teams that have not won anything for 60 years. Italy is a little further ahead in this, despite some disappointments. Sometimes we exaggerate saying that we must necessarily look for the reasons.

"Despite the great disappointment of Palermo, I am pleased that the work done in these three years has been appreciated.

"It's not just the European Championship, these players must also be given credit for the long streak of matches without defeat.

"We don't just have good players; these are special guys who have created an exceptional group. Not only in the locker room, also everything around [Italy's headquarters in] Coverciano, in the federation, here there is a perfect group that seemed ideal for me to achieve success."

Italy could have wrapped up group qualification earlier but Jorginho missed two penalties in as many matches against eventual winners Switzerland, and Mancini acknowledged his side should not have required the play-offs.

"We should have won our group with at least a two-point advantage over Switzerland," he said. "I don't want to find excuses for what's happened, we have to accept reality and move on."

A lack of younger players being involved with Italy has also brought Mancini's tenure into question, and he vowed to make changes in future to address the problems.

"We have to start over, start thinking differently," he continued. "We will include younger players in the national team, in the hope that they will have more opportunities in their respective clubs as well.

"We will start from this, then we will see what to do in a more general context."

Roberto Mancini has revealed the decision to release several senior Italy faces such as Jorginho is to help repay the efforts made between club and country.

The Chelsea midfielder, along with a clutch of other key players such as Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, have left the Azzurri camp ahead of Tuesday's clash with Turkey.

Defeat against North Macedonia last week left the Euro 2020 hopes' of reaching Qatar 2022 in tatters, ensuring they will miss a second successive World Cup.

With that in mind, Mancini looks set to field a more experimental side for a dead rubber against Turkey, who were also eliminated from the play-offs.

Speaking ahead of the match at Torku Arena, Mancini explained that it was on his orders that Jorginho and others departed early, stating that it was intended as a favour to their respective clubs.

"I forced them to leave," the manager sought to clarify in his pre-match press conference. "If I can do something for them and for the clubs, we do it.

"They would not have played. Some were not physically at their best. Some of them, I forced them to go.

"Chelsea sent us Jorginho three days earlier [and] did not let him play in the FA Cup. I sent [him] back home because [he] would not have played."

Jorginho has endured a tough few months in the Azzurri fold, with his crucial missed penalties against Switzerland in the group stage qualifiers effectively costing his side a straight passage to Qatar.

While Mancini added that neither Napoli forward Insigne or Lazio striker Immobile would have featured against Turkey, but still paid tribute to their contributions.

"Lorenzo had physical problems [and] Immobile would have gone to the stands," he stated.

"The boys in recent years have deserved a lot. There are special players here, a special group has been created."

Domenico Berardi says Italy gave their all but admitted they needed to find even more after their failure to qualify for the World Cup.

The Azzurri's hopes of reaching Qatar ended following a shock play-off semi-final defeat by North Macedonia on Thursday, with Aleksandar Trajkovski striking a stoppage-time winner in Palermo.

No player registered more shots at the Renzo Barbera stadium than Berardi (eight), but just two of those were on target.

And the Sassuolo forward was made to rue his profligacy as the hosts suffered a first-ever World Cup qualifying loss on home soil.

Roberto Mancini's side claimed glory at the European Championship just eight months ago, after beating England on penalties in the final.

But for the first time in their history, they will be absent from consecutive World Cups, having also missed out in Russia four years ago.

Over 48 hours on, Berardi revealed the pain of missing out on the finals is still raw, but he is determined to put things right.

Addressing his 278,000 followers on Instagram, he posted: "A cool head hurts even more. The dream for all of us Italians ended in the worst way.

"Believe it or not, we've really done a lot. We tried in every way, but it wasn't enough.

"It was the goal of the whole group to go to the World Cup. For many of us, [it would have been] the first time to play the most beautiful cup for our country.

"It was our responsibility to take you to the World Cup and live a wonderful adventure all together like the one last summer.

"We had to and could have given more because what angers us most is that we are not there. There aren't many things to add. We will work to make you dream again. Together. United. Azzurri."

Marco Verratti and Jorginho were among a group of six players to leave the Italy camp after their failure to qualify for the World Cup. 

Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Domenico Berardi and Gianluca Mancini also returned to their clubs ahead of schedule, with the latter two having sustained knocks. 

Italy coach Roberto Mancini is expected to ring the changes in a friendly against Turkey on Tuesday following the Azzurri's shock defeat to North Macedonia in a World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final on Thursday. 

The Euro 2020 champions' first ever home loss in World Cup qualifying meant they failed to reach successive finals for the first time in their history. 

Instead of taking on Portugal in the play-off final, Italy will depart for Konya on Monday. 

Leonardo Bonucci has no doubt Italy will recover from their World Cup qualifying humiliation to be a major power once again, pointing out they produced a similar response not so long ago.

Italy were incredibly defeated 1-0 by North Macedonia in Thursday's Qatar 2022 qualifying play-off semi-final, with Aleksandar Trajkovski's stoppage-time winner stunning world football.

Roberto Mancini's men had dominated the match, but Trajkovski's speculative long-range effort left Azzurri players and coaching staff looking dismayed.

It marked a monumental change in fortunes from last year when a largely unfancied Italy side won Euro 2020, which was seen a huge achievement given their absence from Russia 2018.

As such, this will be the first time in World Cup history Italy have missed consecutive tournaments, with their failure to reach the 2018 edition instigating something of rebuild of the senior set-up.

Mancini has seemingly escaped much of the criticism, with many fans of the opinion he overachieved significantly when guiding them to European Championship success last year, and Bonucci appears to be confident Italy will respond swiftly and efficiently.

Bonucci, who missed Thursday's defeat due to injury, wrote on Instagram: "The two emotions are at opposite ends. The great euphoria and joy of the summer [at Euro 2020] are clearly contrasted with the disappointment and bitterness of this exclusion, exacerbated even more by not being able to help my team-mates for those 90 minutes.

"Now is the time to look ahead. Last summer we took the credit and praise for having done something unique; today we must take responsibility for not having earned the passage for our own demerits, more than for the merits of others.

"It is time for concrete and in-depth analysis to start over, to give Italy and the Italians what they deserve.

"We have done this before. And the climb has already begun, for me, for us.

"It will be hard to get back to the top, but we have already shown that we know how to get there. The future is now!"

 

Roberto Mancini says Italy must "take some time to reflect" and "work towards the future" after they failed to qualify for a second consecutive World Cup.

The Azzurri will not feature in the tournament in Qatar this year after suffering a sensational 1-0 play-off defeat to North Macedonia on Thursday.

Italy won Euro 2020 by beating England on penalties in the final at Wembley last July, but suffered heartbreak in Palermo this week.

Mancini's future has been called into question in certain quarters, but the head coach says it is important to look at where his side felt short and put the agony behind them.

He posted on Instagram: "Sometimes football can be a ruthless metaphor for life.

"Last summer we were on the top of Europe after having completed one of the most beautiful feats in the history of the national team. A few hours ago we woke up in one of the most dramatic points.

"We have gone from total joy to frustrating disappointment.

"It is really hard to accept, but also accepting the defeats in life is part of a healthy path of human and sporting growth.

"Let's take some time to reflect and understand clearly. The only right move now is to raise your head and work towards the future."

Roberto Mancini has "worked miracles" in charge of Italy and should not be hounded out of the role after their stunning failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.

That is the view of former Italy international Antonio Cassano, who described the current Azzurri vintage as "mediocre", citing last year's Euro 2020 triumph as proof of Mancini's brilliance.

Italy suffered a shock 1-0 loss to North Macedonia on Thursday to miss out on the World Cup for a second edition in a row, with some pointing the finger of blame of boss Mancini.

However, Cassano, who played 39 times and scored 10 goals for his country, said those critics "should be ashamed".

"Let's face it: our national team is a mediocre team and Mancini took them to the top of Europe last summer, making a miracle, playing in a way never seen before," he told Bobo TV. 

"I am truly sorry for Roberto, whoever asks for his resignation should be ashamed.

"We should all pray that Mancini will remain at the helm of the national team, he is the lifeline of Italy.

"[Ciro] Immobile, [Lorenzo] Insigne... many players seemed to me in difficulty. Italy has a mediocre team and Mancini had worked miracles so far."

The 39-year-old, who last played for his country in 2014, said Italy had been missing a talisman since Christian Vieri left the international stage in 2005.

He said: "Bobo, we haven't had a striker in the national team since you left."

Roberto Mancini will be searching for answers after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup, and his mother has helpfully provided one: Mario Balotelli should have been called up.

Speaking on Rai Radio 1 on Friday, Marianna Puolo said Mancini's Azzurri would have benefited from Balotelli's power, and his inclusion could have staved off what played out in Palermo, where Italy lost 1-0 to North Macedonia.

Balotelli, a one-time teenage wonder who now plays for Adana Demirspor in Turkey's Super Lig, has long been a favourite with Mancini, dating back to their time together as player and coach at Inter and Manchester City.

Now 31, Balotelli earned a recall for an Italy training camp at the beginning of this year. He had not been capped by Italy since head coach Mancini played him three times in 2018, which followed a four-year absence from the national team.

There was no room for Balotelli in Italy's squad for the World Cup play-offs, however, and the semi-final defeat to North Macedonia means the four-time champions will miss this year's finals in Qatar, just as they were absent in Russia four years ago.

"We had the game in our hand, but the attack was not great," said Mancini's mother.

"What would I have done different? I would have called Balotelli, because he has incredible physical strength and nobody stops him in front of goal.

"Sometimes he does stupid things, but I would have called him."

Italy had 32 shots but could not find a goal against North Macedonia, who had four and hit the back of Gianluigi Donnarumma's net in stoppage time, breaking Italian hearts.

Puolo agreed with her son's post-match verdict that it would go down at the biggest disappointment of his career.

"Yes, because in his career he has more or less always done well," she said. "I heard him this morning, he was sorry, but we know that these things happen in sport."

Jorginho's 90th-minute missed penalty at 1-1 against Switzerland in Italy's penultimate group-stage qualifier ultimately proved highly costly. Had he tucked it away, Italy would have likely not needed a play-off.

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho also missed from the spot in the first game against Switzerland, which finished as a draw, too.

Mancini's mother gave her verdict on Jorginho, saying: "Of course he didn't do it on purpose, poor thing, but if you miss two or three penalties, in the end, you pay for it."

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