Ventura already looking ahead to play-offs

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura is already thinking ahead to the World Cup play-offs despite still needing a result in Friday’s match against Macedonia.

With two matches left to play in Group G, the Azzurri need just a point in Turin to assure themselves of second place in the group behind Spain, who look set to qualify automatically.

“These two games are there to be won, as always,” he said of the final two qualifiers, including Monday’s match away to Albania.

“But I don’t expect anything special in view of the playoffs because we knew that we might have to go through the playoffs, considering we were in a group with Spain.

“We have already qualified for the playoffs. Now we’ll get ready to play them. We’re looking forward to them.”

Ventura is preparing for the match against Macedonia without prefered striker Andrea Belotti, and is also missing midfielder such as Marco Verratti, Daniele De Rossi, and Claudio Marchisio.

“If Belotti’s fit, then he’s an extra weapon anywhere, not just here in Turin,” Ventura said. “He’s a big loss, as is the loss of all our midfielders.I hope that he and [Simone] Zaza recover soon; I hope Belotti is fit for November.

“Regardless of the formation and the players who play, I want to see enthusiasm, will and determination, which we need for this game.

“In terms of the numbers, we’ve achieved a lot with eight wins, two draws and just one defeat – that’s not a bad record, but we need to get the points we need to have a privileged place in the playoffs. We need these points.”

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