AC Milan hero Roberto Donadoni believes Italy have gone backwards since the summer's Euros win.
Italy now face a World Cup playoff in March to reach Qatar 2022.
“Italy suffered a physical and mental decline, but no defeatism," former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni told La Repubblica. “I don't conceive excesses.
“In football, it's increasingly difficult to find balance. The most obvious defect of Italy was the lack of competitive aggression. But I exclude it was due to lack of motivation, if anything I noticed a physical condition lower than the usual.
“The play-off is no catastrophe. I refuse to think that we must avoid Portugal: it's a sign of weakness."