Italian Soccer Mogul Gian Piero Calms Crowd With Reassurance
Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has allayed fears of his side failing to reach the playoffs for the World Cup by announcing that they already have their ticket for next month's all-or-nothing encounter.

Speaking prior to Italy's clash with Macedonia in Turin on Friday night, where Italy need just a point to be assured of at least second place in the group, Ventura spread optimism by stating that Italy would get the required result.

"We have already qualified for the playoffs," he said in Turin. "Now we'll get ready to play them.

"These two games [against Macedonia and in Albania on Monday] are there to be won, as always, 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're looking forward to them."

Italy still cannot afford to lose to Macedonia, though, since such a result could see them needing to get a point in Tirana in their final game -- not that Ventura says the pressure is too great for him.

"Right from the first day I started this job, I've been obliged to win," he said.

"In Israel, in Macedonia in friendlies -- It's always been imperative to win, and it is the same tomorrow night. Psychologically, we're serene, and I'm satisfied with the work and effort. This has been one of our best weeks."

He nevertheless needs to alter his side due to the loss due to injury of Andrea Belotti, who has been his first-choice forward for the best part of a year, and would have run out in his home stadium, the Stadio Olimpico.

"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."

In the absence of the Torino forward, Ventura had been tipped to change formation. His usual 4-2-4 system has been widely deemed unsuitable for the players he has available -- with just Eder, Manolo Gabbiadini and Roberto Insigne as alternatives to Belotti -- but Ventura disagrees.

Italian Sports Directory of Florida