Leonardo Bonucci has branded the World Cup qualification process ‘absurd’ following Italy’s elimination following a one-leg playoff defeat to North Macedonia.
After finishing second in their group, Gli Azzurri were pushed to the playoffs and appeared to be heading for a one-match shootout with Portugal for a spot in the showpiece event in Qatar.
However, they were eliminated from the playoffs as a second-half stoppage-time goal by Aleksandar Trajkovski gave North Macedonia a stunning 1-0 victory.
Bonucci – who did not appear in the game – criticized the choice to use one-legged playoff games for this qualification round.
“We played a one-off match which is an absurd format. Unfortunately, it was decided to be like this but that’s a crazy decision,” he said.
“There are national teams qualified in other conferences where they lost four or five games. Meanwhile, we’re out for conceding a 92nd-minute goal in the first match we lose at home. It’s truly crazy this new formula.”
“This isn’t an excuse though. We should’ve definitely done better.”
Although Bonucci was critical of the new playoff system, he omitted to mention that Italy had failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup under the previous regulations.
Since the defeat, there have been rumors of discontent inside the Italian camp, with Jorginho, Lorenzo Insigne, and Ciro Immobile all going home amid reports that they are considering retirement.
Another player rumored to be on the move was Bonucci, but recent rumors suggest that the Juventus defender is willing to stay with Gli Azzurri.