Italy aim to progress by ‘play­ing foot­ball’

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Soccer -

Be­lea­guered Italy coach Gian Piero Ven­tura said his team would try to qual­ify for the World Cup by ‘play­ing foot­ball’ af­ter their ill-tem­pered play­off first leg against Swe­den.

The 69-year-old Ven­tura – the old­est-ever coach in Italy’s his­tory – said it would take him months to lis­ten to all the ad­vice he had re­ceived as he bids to over­turn Fri­day’s 1-0 first leg de­feat in Stock­holm.

That loss left Italy in dan­ger of miss­ing the World Cup for the first time in 60 years and the ten­sion ahead of tonight’s re­turn at the San Siro is pal­pa­ble.

Italy com­plained of rough play by Swe­den in the first leg, in­clud­ing a chal­lenge which left Leonardo Bouncci with a bro­ken nose, while Swe­den were un­happy at their ri­vals’ al­leged games­man­ship. Italy have said that Bouncci will play with a face mask.

“We are Italy and, if we qual­ify, I would like to be able to say that we did it by play­ing foot­ball,” Ven­tura told re­porters. “I don’t know what sort of game it will be but I hope it will be played in the cor­rect spirit.”

Ven­tura’s tac­tics and team se­lec­tion have been the sub­ject of heated de­bate. He ditched his pre­ferred 4-2-4 for­ma­tion for a 3-5-2 in Fri­day’s match and Ital­ians are ea­ger to see what he will come up with and who will re­place sus­pended mid­fielder Marco Ver­ratti.

“I’ve re­ceived so much ad­vice in the last few days that, if I tried to lis­ten to it all, it would take months,” said Ven­tura. “I can as­sure you that coaches lis­ten to ad­vice and an­a­lyse it, but it is us who de­cide.”

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