90 minutes to secure second place and book a place in the play-offs. A lot is riding on tomorrow’s match against Israel in Reggio Emilia. Three days after defeat to Spain in Madrid, the Azzurri will have the chance to bounce back and reach an important objective in their task of qualifying for the World Cup.
“When you’re in a group with Spain, you have to prepare for the eventuality of finishing second,” began Ventura at the pre-match press conference. “We did well to stay level on points and then less well to lose and now the play-offs await us. I agree with the President Tavecchio that failure to qualify would be an extremely negative thing which would warrant everything coming under discussion, but we’re not even considering that. If we win against Israel, second is practically secure. So, we’ll take note of the difficulties we faced against Spain and move forward.”
The Head Coach remains calm as he believes in this Italy and the prospect that we’ll see a different team tomorrow. “Spain showed that they’re a better national team technically and physically. Tomorrow, I expect us to return to the path we were on before Madrid with ten months of positive results.”
Ventura also discussed the possibility of a formation change. “I’m not tied to one formation, we can play with more than one system and we’ve shown that. We must keep developing and working on every situation. So far, this is a group which has given me more than I expected. They’ve been very willing and capable.”
There was a lot of criticism following the defeat to Spain but Ventura was able to take it with a smile: “I don’t believe there’s ever been an Italy coach who has not been subject to criticism, you have to accept it in this work, perhaps more when it’s constructive and helps us to improve. Our aim is to qualify for the World Cup and to work so that we can do something of note in Russia.”
The Azzurri coach isn’t taking Israel lightly. “In the return leg, they made it hard for us and I have great respect for them,” he added. “They’re also coming in from a defeat so they will want to recover.”
The captain Gigi Buffon was not spared from criticism either after the Spain match. “In football, everyone has an opinion and opinions often come from the truth. Criticism is like the passing of the seasons, it’s inevitable. That’s fine. You can feel hurt even if you’re just going against legitimate and constructive criticism. People taking shots doesn’t affect who I am or my will to be here.”
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa);
Defenders: Davide Astori (Fiorentina), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Davide Zappacosta Chelsea), *Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Andrea Conti (Milan), Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United), Daniele Rugani (Juventus),
Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Riccardo Montolivo (Milan), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain);
Wingers: Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Antonio Candreva (Inter), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli);
Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Eder Citadin Martins (Inter), Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton), Ciro Immobile (Lazio.
*Injured and has left the squad