Italy cannot afford to slip in Skopje
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.
Italy’s Daniele De Rossi, left, and Andrea Barzagli attend a team training session in Turin yesterday