World Cup

Leonardo Bonucci blasts 'absurd' World Cup qualification format

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Bonucci was speaking after Bonucci crashed out of the World Cup
Bonucci was speaking after Bonucci crashed out of the World Cup / Claudio Villa/GettyImages

Leonardo Bonucci has claimed that the World Cup qualification process is 'absurd' after Italy crashed out following a one-legged playoff defeat to minnows North Macedonia.

After failing to top their group, Gli Azzurri were placed into the playoffs and seemed set for a single-match shootout with Portugal for a place at the showpiece event in Qatar.

However, they ended up exiting the playoffs at the first hurdle with a second-half stoppage-time goal from Aleksandar Trajkovski giving North Macedonia a shock 1-0 win.

Speaking after their elimination, Bonucci – who did not play in the game – was critical of the decision to implement one-legged playoff games for this qualification cycle.

"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 failed to note that Italy also failed to qualify under the previous rules which were in place for the 2018 World Cup qualification cycle.

There have been rumours of upheaval within the Italian camp since the defeat with Jorginho, Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile all returning home amid rumours that they are considering retirement.

Bonucci was another player mentioned as someone who could move on, but more recent reports suggest that the Juventus defender is keen to continue with Gli Azzurri.

For more from Matt O’Connor-Simpson, follow him on Twitter