MX23RW : Sunday, July 22 06:24:20

Andrea Pirlo defends state of Italian football

Italy legend Andrea Pirlo does not believe that football in his home nation is in a bad state ahead of the Azzurri's impending World Cup playoff campaign.

Andrea Pirlo has rejected claims suggesting that the state of football in Italy is in poor health.

Giampiero Ventura's side limped to a 1-1 home draw with Macedonia on Friday, which leaves the Azzurri needing to navigate the playoffs in order to reach the World Cup.

If Italy manage to get to the finals in Russia, they will be attempting to avoid a third successive group-stage exit following early knockouts in 2010 and 2014.

Pirlo, who on Sunday announced his impending retirement once his New York City FC contract expires at the end of the year, is confident that results will soon improve.

"Italian football is not sick," the 38-year-old, who won the World Cup in 2006, told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It's true that we have had two bad exits from the World Cup, but in the middle we had two great Euro campaigns with a final and a good showing in France. With a little more luck, we could have gone right to the end in France.

"There is currently a changing of the guard that happened with Germany, France and Spain as well. Once it's over, you will have a more prolific period and start winning again."

Italy have won the World Cup four times over the years.

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Italy manager Giampiero Ventura on the touchline during the international friendly with Germany in Milan on November 15, 2016
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