Italy make their 2018 World Cup qualifying debut tonight in Israel

After defeat to France, Gian Piero Ventura’s Italy will face Israel at 20:45 CEST in Haifa to kick off the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. The only other match played in Israel by the Azzurri was a World Cup qualifier in October 1961 which Italy won 4-2.

The Sammy Offer Stadium will host the fixture with around 30,000 fans aiming to cheer Israel on to a historic result. “I have clear ideas, you just need to understand that the best solutions also depend on what they do,” said Ventura. “By making another step forward from the France game, I am convinced that the result should come.”

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Along with Daniele De Rossi who was injured against France, Ventura will also have to make do without Andrea Belotti who didn’t travel to Haifa because of a slight muscular injury. There is also further fitness work to do with sides traditionally not being in the best of shape at the start of September.  Ventura also pondered about past records: “The facts say that an Italian side has only gotten through the Champions League playoff once in the last ten years.” On the other hand, Italy are unbeaten in 50 World Cup and European qualifiers. “If statistics were always a guarantee then everything would be too simple and nice. I don’t believe much in statistics, but rather the ability of the players and their potential to improve. I expect them to improve tomorrow and we’ll speed up which will help our confidence.” Elsewhere in Italy’s group, Albania play Macedonia and Spain face Liechtenstein. Lopetegui’s side will be the next opponents for the Azzurri on Thursday 6th October in Turin.

Click here for the match’s press kits

Squad list and official numbers

Goalkeepers: 1 Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), 12 Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), 13 Federico Marchetti (Lazio);
Defenders: 14 Luca Antonelli (Milan), 4 Davide Astori (Fiorentina), 15 Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), 19 Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), 3 Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), 2 Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), 5 Angelo Obinze Ogbonna (West Ham), 25 Daniele Rugani (Juventus);
Midfielders: 21 Federico Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), 7 Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), 6 Antonio Candreva (Inter), 24 Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), 18 Riccardo Montolivo (Milan), 8 Marco Parolo (Lazio), 10 Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain);
Forwards: 20 Andrea Belotti (Torino), 17 Eder Citadin Martins (Inter), 22 Manolo Gabbiadini (Napoli), 11 Ciro Immobile (Lazio), 23 Leonardo Pavoletti (Genoa), 9 Graziano Pellè (Shandong Luneng).

Staff – Head Coach: Gian Piero Ventura; Assistant Coaches: Salvatore Sullo, Paolo Vanoli and Gianluca Spinelli; Secretary: Mauro Vladovich; Fitness coaches: Alessandro Innocenti and Giovanni Brignardello; Team Doctors: Enrico Castellacci and Carmine Costabile; Physiotherapists/Masseurs: Fabrizio Scalzi, Emanuele Randelli, Alfonso Casano and Pasquale Raia.

Italy’s schedule for the matches against France and Israel in September:

Sunday 4th September
10:00 Training at the Stadio San Nicola (closed)
15:15 Chartered flight from Bari to Tel Aviv departs
19:05 (18:05 CEST) Chartered flight arrives in Tel Aviv and squad transfer by bus to Haifa (1h 20mins)
20:45 (19:45 CEST) Pitch inspection at the S. Hofer Stadium and press conference with head coach and one player
Followed by transfer to hotel

Monday 5th September
Followed by meeting with the press and transfer to hotel

Tuesday 6th September
12:30 (11:30 CEST) Chartered flight leaves Tel Aviv for Milan Malpensa via Rome Fiumincino