Italy can­not af­ford to slip in Skopje

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Italy will be meet­ing Mace­do­nia in Skopje this evening and will need to win all the three points af­ter hav­ing just man­aged to draw at home against Spain on Thurs­day.

In that match, Italy were dom­i­nated for most of the match. Coach Ven­tura has largely stuck by the work­man­like squad which served An­to­nio Conte so well, but their de­fi­cien­cies are cru­elly ex­posed with­out the Chelsea man­ager’s manic in­ten­sity.

Where the likes of Spain, France or Ger­many reg­u­larly hand out thrash­ings in qual­i­fy­ing, the Az­zurri tend to win, but with rather less panache. The qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign for Euro 2016 saw two nar­row 1-0 wins over mod­est Malta. The last two trips to the Faroe Is­lands saw the Ital­ians also win­ning nar­rowly by 2-1 and 1-0 re­spec­tively.

The az­zurri, how­ever, are un­de­feated in qual­i­fy­ing since a loss to France in Sep­tem­ber 2006. How­ever, with the Az­zurri in per­haps their tough­est qual­i­fy­ing group since that cam­paign, they can’t af­ford to slip in Skopje.

Only the win­ners of the group will progress au­to­mat­i­cally to Rus­sia, so it’s vi­tal that there are no slip-ups against the lesser lights. A play-off could well see Italy paired with France or the Nether­lands, and even Slo­vakia or Croa­tia could put a ma­jor bump in the road to Rus­sia.

Ven­tura can­not ex­pect a com­fort­able win, but Italy must make sure they come back from a firstever meet­ing with Mace­do­nia with all three points. Ex­perts say that any­thing less and the race for au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion may be over be­fore it has even re­ally be­gun.

Photo: AP

Italy’s Daniele De Rossi, left, and An­drea Barza­gli at­tend a team train­ing ses­sion in Turin yes­ter­day

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