Ventura: “It’s a good result, I saw a great reaction from the players”

He shouted his head off, especially during the first half, when he constantly asked his team to try to knock the ball around instead of resorting to long balls. Then, Gian Piero Ventura appreciated the reaction shown by his Italy side after Spain’s goal. The Azzurri showed all their character and eventually drew, a result which leaves the hunt for direct qualification open. “It’s a good result, especially if we take into account our players’ physical problems and Spain’s quality,” commented Italy’s manager after the game, “I saw a great reaction from all of the players. Spain are widely regarded as the group’s favourites, but tonight’s game has taught us many things. One of them being that we can achieve our goals if we want to. We can do much better, we can absolutely compete at the top level.”

Italy struggled for more than an hour trying to escape Spain’s stifling pressing, even though the Azzurri did not run many risks: “We had some players who were a bit too tense,” Ventura went on to say. “Every time we won back the ball, we gave it away two seconds later. A little bit more character was needed, but we got less anxious later on and we began to play football, we created the chances to equalise and even win. They had more possession, but you all saw how their goal came and I don’t recall any saves from Buffon.”

Daniele De Rossi levelled with his 19th Azzurri goal. The Roma midfielder received an honour before kick-off at the Juventus Stadium for making over 100 international appearances and he made no mistake from the spot. “It was a difficult first half,” he said. “We were too deep and not aggressive enough and we gave them too much of the ball. There was a great reaction in the second half which is in our DNA. We have to make steps forward, develop and improve but we’ve always been a team that never knows when it’s beaten.” He then also mentioned Buffon’s mistake: “It’s true that even the greatest goalkeeper in history can make a mistake, he’d be a machine otherwise.” De Rossi then looked ahead to other matches in the group: “We have to visit some difficult places. At lot of teams would have possibly lost today with a performance like that and that gives us hope.”

The substitutions which saw Immobile and Belotti come on brought energy to the Azzurri. The ‘Gallo’ made his mark by being involved in the move leading up to the penalty and he also had a goal disallowed. “When me and Ciro came on we wanted to change the game, neither us two nor anybody else in the team was ready to accept defeat,” said the Torino attacker.  “We gave all we had and ended up with an important draw.” As Ventura mentioned before at his press conference, Immobile and Belotti can play together: “We played together for half the season last year, I’m happy alongside him and I think you can see that from tonight.”