Buffon hits back at Ventura critics

Buffon hits back at Ventura critics

Buffon hits back at Ventura critics

Italy have secured second place, with the eight best group runners-up entering the play-offs for a spot at the World Cup in Russian Federation.

Italy lie second but are still not mathematically sure of even being one of the top eight runners-up to make the play-offs.

"I think the praise was exaggerated before and the criticism is exaggerated now, I had moments that were positive and negative, like all coaches".

The result, coupled with Spain's 3-0 win over Albania, ensured that Italy will finish second in Group G although they are not yet certain of making the playoff round. We have a match waiting for us in Albania (tomorrow) before the play-offs and we'll go out there to play. "We need to see answers on the field now and I hope we can rediscover a team with a strong identity".

Ventura has been criticised for persisting with a 4-2-4 system that some have claimed is ill-suited to the players, especially after their 3-0 defeat to Spain last month.

"Today the only thing that matters 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". If they created problems for us, it was our fault.

However, the prospect of deciding their fate in a two-leg tie has made the Italian media and fans jittery and recent performances have added to fears that the unthinkable may happen and Italy could fail to qualify for the first time since 1958.

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.

Italy face Macedonia on Friday and in honour of Buffon, who has played for his country for 20 years and featured in five World Cups, the squad will wear the away jersey so that their goalkeeper can don the famous blue jersey for the first time in his career.

The run-up to the November 2016 Albania-Israel World Cup qualifier led to several arrests in Albania and Kosovo over an alleged planned terrorist attack after local authorities were tipped off by Israeli intelligence services.

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