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Ventura fears for World Cup play-offs after Turin shocker

Gian Piero Ventura warned Italy will struggle to even get past November's World Cup play-offs if they reproduce the woeful form of Friday night's 1-1 draw against Macedonia in Turin.

Ventura fears for World Cup play-offs after Turin shocker
Italy boss Gian Piero Ventura. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Aleksandar Trajkovski cancelled out Giorgio Chiellini's first half goal as the Azzurri left the pitch in Ventura's old stadium with whistles ringing in their ears.

“If Italy play like we did in the second half with Macedonia, we'll struggle in the play-offs,” said Ventura.

Spain qualified first in Group G by thrashing Albania 3-0 with Italy second but still not mathematically sure of even being one of the top eight runners-up to make the play-offs.

“The result is not positive, it is not what we wanted, nor what we expected,” said the former Torino coach.

“I think the whistles were deserved, even if I think you should never jeer the national side as a point of principle.

“We need to get the crowd on our side because they can help us. We have a match waiting for us in Albania (on Monday) before the play-offs and we'll go out there to play.

“The only thing that matters now is getting our energy back, recover a few players and go to achieve what this group deserves, which is a place in the play-offs.”

'Get out fast'

Veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon — decked out in the new Azzurri blue kit for the 2018 World Cup – conceded the four-time world champions were still reeling from last month's rout by Spain.

“I think that the Spain defeat affected our confidence and it still left a mark on this match,” said the Juventus player.

“Maybe we thought that we're better than we are, even if a 1-0 win wouldn't have changed anything and a draw just extends a cycle that we need to get out of fast through pride, determination and a sense of responsibility.

“At this point we need a psychological turning point.”

The setback against 103rd-ranked Macedonia could also have a negative impact on Italy's world ranking — currently 17th – as they bid to ensure a favourable seeding for the play-off draw next month.

Chiellini added: “We're really frustrated. We are sorry for the fans, we understand them and we are as upset as they are, but I am sure they will support us when we need them.”

Amid the mounting injuries Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli limped off at the end of the first half with a muscular problem.

“I went off to avoid taking any risks,” said the 36-year-old.

“It was a bad game, we need a bit more belief in ourselves, but we are all keen to play and give our all. We have to show more determination on the pitch, we want to go to Russia. We have to go to Russia.”

The last time Italy had to go through play-offs was in 1997 on the road to the 1998 World Cup in France.

By Emmeline Moore

FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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