Italy great Giorgio Chiellini believes the Azzurri have a bright future ahead of them and says critics have been overly pessimistic regarding their chances at Euro 2024.
Chiellini captained Italy as they overcame England in the final of Euro 2020, but the Azzurri have not been widely tipped to retain their crown after enduring a difficult few years.
Having missed out on the last two World Cups, Italy somewhat scraped their way through qualifying for next year's tournament in Germany, losing home and away to England and requiring a nervy 0-0 draw with Ukraine on the final matchday to avoid the playoffs.
Ahead of Luciano Spalletti's first major tournament in charge, Italy have been drawn to face Spain, Croatia and Albania in a difficult-looking group, but Chiellini believes reports of the Azzurri's demise have been greatly exaggerated.
"I know the Italian draw very well. Croatia and Spain are good teams with experience, with good players," the defender told Stats Perform.
"Albania is our biggest friend that we face. We are very happy that they joined the Euros. I have a lot of Albanian friends and they deserve it. We have to respect that.
"Obviously, we will try to pass through the group, arrive in the quarter-finals and then we'll see. We have seen also in the last [Euros], we were lucky.
"I guess also in the round of 16 [against Austria], and we were lucky to win on penalties in the last two games, but at the end we deserved to win.
"There is a good cycle, a new cycle, with good young players. I think that could be a good spine for the national team.
"I don't know if they need maybe more time to be in the right moment and in their prime to win, but there is a bright future for the Italian national team."
Asked who excited him most in the current Italy setup, Chiellini said: "I think [Gianluigi] Donnarumma is by far the best young goalkeeper that we could have and he's really special.
"[Alessandro] Bastoni is a fantastic defender and we have a lot of amazing midfielders. [Marco] Verratti is just 31, he's not 40 like me! We have a good midfield.
"[Federico] Chiesa is someone that could break every line in every moment of the game. Italy have a good team.
"Now I hope that there are new faces arriving because we have a good academy for the national team, with players coming through.
"We have a good coach, everything is good. Sometimes in Italy, we are too pessimistic with the team and we talk badly, but I think that we have a bright future and a really good team."