Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

Italy finish second place in Group G after Macedonia draw

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Saul Franklin | 08 October, 2017, 01:14

They have already booked themselves a place in the play-offs with seven points separating them and Albania in third in Group G, meanwhile trailing first-placed Spain by five points.

Italy, which was without Claudio Marchisio, Daniele De Rossi, Marco Verratti and Andrea Belotti, didn't have a shot on target after Chiellini's goal, against a side ranked outside the top 100.

"If Italy play like we did in the second half with Macedonia, we'll struggle in the play-offs", Ventura said. "But we were missing some players and we were exhausted".

"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".

Italy now sit second in their qualifying group, three points behind Spain with just two matches remaining.

It could be assured of a playoff berth on Saturday if Bosnia doesn't beat Belgium. The fans might well be disappointed but we must have their support at a time of need like this.

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Supporters at Turin's Stadio Olimpico turned against the players and national head coach Giampiero Ventura as Macedonia were allowed to force a 1-1 draw that confirmed Italy will finish as Group G runners-up to Spain. We have to show more determination on the pitch, we want to go to Russian Federation.

Italy finally broke the deadlock five minutes from halftime from an unlikely source.

Lorenzo Insigne created a good early opening for Italy after a quick exchange of passes with Ciro Immobile but Stole Dimitrievski rushed out to save.

Chiellini came to the rescue at the other end moments later with a last-ditch tackle after Leonardo Bonucci gave away possession with a bad pass.

Macedonia will likely sit deep and look to soak up Italian pressure, but the hosts should have more than enough to breach any rearguard action.

Capitalising on their disquiet was Trajkovski of Serie B side Palermo, who collected a cutting pass from the tireless Pandev before beating Buffon with an angled drive from the edge of the six-yard box.

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