Former Italy international Francesco Totti has admitted that it is "unthinkable" to have the Azzurri absent from this summer's World Cup in Russia.
Italy's defeat at the hands of Sweden in the playoffs last year saw the four-time world champions fail to qualify for the competition for the first time since 1958.
However, Totti is hopeful that it is only a minor blip rather than the beginning of a downturn in fortunes for the Italian team.
"We hope this is only a moment and this is not a consolidated trend," Totti told Sports Mole at the Laureus World Sports Awards.
"It is unthinkable to not have Italy participating in the World Cup. The absence of Italy is quite critical, but we all regret this absence."
Totti was part of the Italian team that won the World Cup in 2006.