Italy coach Marcello Lippi has offered no excuses for his team's early exit from the FIFA Confederations Cup and admits the Azzurri are going through "the most difficult time" since he took over.
The world champions lost 3-0 against Brazil in Pretoria yesterday to see their campaign in South Africa come to an early end.
"It's the most difficult time since I took over the national team," said World Cup-winning coach Lippi, who took over for a second spell from Roberto Donadoni after UEFA Euro 2008.
"We have not played good football. We take the criticism and we go home bitter, disappointed and sad."
Italy opened the tournament with a laboured 3-1 win over ten-man USA, then lost 1-0 to Egypt.
Needing a win over Brazil last night, Lippi's side were drab and unimaginative.
He said: "We turned in three under-par performances that are not in line with our expectations - even if Brazil is the strongest team in the world and it's not easy to beat them."
The President of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) Giancarlo Abete was critical of the side.
"It has been an ugly Italy," he said. "We deserved the defeat and it's right that we are out of the Confederations Cup.
"We played at a low rhythm and we have to learn from this elimination and recover the significant gap in competitiveness."
The Italian press have blamed Lippi's selections, with very few young players in the 23-man squad.
Despite the outcome, Lippi was able to take some positives from the tournament.
"The Confederations Cup has helped me to clarify my ideas," he said. "It has allowed me to evaluate veteran players and the others.
"There is still time to work before the World Cup and I never said that this group will be the group that will play in South Africa next year."
In the meantime, Italy will focus on qualifying for the World Cup in 12 months time.
The Azzurri currently lead Group Eight, one point clear of the Republic of Ireland and with a game in hand.
Captain Fabio Cannavaro, who equalled Paolo Maldini's record 126 appearances for his country yesterday, said: "The Confederations Cup should not distract us from our main aim which is to qualify for the World Cup.
"In a year's time we will return to South Africa and we will see a different Italy."
Italy will next be in action when they travel to Basel for a friendly against Switzerland on August 12, before September's qualifying double-header against Georgia and Bulgaria.
[FIFA Confederations Cup 2009]
Source: Sporting Life