England manager Gareth Southgate said Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup shows how well his team have done since their agonising Euro 2020 final defeat.
The Azzurri were shocked by North Macedonia in the play-off semi-final on Thursday, losing 1-0 in Palermo to a stoppage time goal from Aleksandar Trajkovski, and will now miss their second consecutive World Cup.
Southgate suffered at the hands of Italy last year as he saw his Three Lions team beaten on penalties at Wembley in the final of Euro 2020, but while Roberto Mancini's team were unable to book their place in Qatar, England eased through their group, winning five and drawing two of their World Cup qualifiers since losing to the Azzurri.
Speaking at a media conference ahead of Saturday's friendly against Switzerland, Southgate said: "It was a big surprise [Italy losing]. It's clear that sometimes teams have a cycle. Whether that was the cycle or the after effects of the [Euro 2020] final and the emotion of it and everything else.
"I think that's where our players did so well, to recover from the emotion of the final and to perform as they did in the autumn was absolutely fantastic. I think qualifying is [easily underestimated], so I suspect looking at the results and performances, the way they went, Italy were in that position."
1 - Italy won't take part to the World Cup in two successive editions for the first time ever. Void. #ItaliaMacedonia— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 24, 2022
Jordan Henderson joined Southgate in front of the media, and also refused to celebrate the Italians' misfortune, saying when asked if the result made him smile: "Not really, to be honest. I'm just concentrated on what we need to do and teams that will be in the World Cup.
"I think what that does show is how difficult qualification can be. I think sometimes that's taken for granted and it's expected that you qualify for a World Cup or a Euros, so [Italy's loss is] proof that if you're not 100 per cent at it, you can be punished."
Southgate also revealed that the three debutants called up to his latest squad, Kyle Walker-Peters, Tyrick Mitchell and Marc Guehi, are likely to get minutes against either Switzerland or the Ivory Coast in the next week.
"Emile [Smith Rowe] didn't train today, so I would think unlikely he'll be involved tomorrow," he said. "Raheem [Sterling] is absolutely fine, it was a shame to lose Bukayo [Saka, following a COVID-19 test].
"We're going to have debuts this week for sure, whether it's tomorrow or Tuesday."