Win with talent - Italy coach Ventura
MILAN, Italy (AP):
Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura is hoping his players can combat Sweden's physicality with their footballing talent when they meet again in the second leg of their World Cup play-off today.
Italy were outraged at Sweden's physical approach in the first leg, protesting for yellow cards at perceived excessive contact, and Ventura felt Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir was too lenient.
Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci will play today with a protective mask after his nose was broken during the match.
"I think the match could have been controlled in a more sportsmanlike manner," Ventura said in a press conference yesterday. "And that much is evident if someone tomorrow has to play with a mask on.
"But we're Italy. If we qualify we have to do so by playing football. That doesn't mean that Sweden doesn't. I don't know what kind of match it will be tomorrow, but I hope there will be better sporting behaviour."
Italy finished behind Spain in their qualifying group and are now in danger of missing their first World Cup since 1958 after losing the first leg of their play-off 1-0 in Sweden.
CAN'T BE SURPRISED
"I know the match is fundamental for us, but it's the same scenario that there was when I joined the national team," said Ventura, who replaced Antonio Conte after the 2016 European Championship. "We knew that Spain was in our group and we could end up in the play-offs. We can't be surprised to have got to this point.
"I honestly don't understand: people are surprised we're here playing this play-off but that was the scenario from the beginning. Now we're here, if we lose we'll make certain decisions, if we win we'll make others."
Ventura insisted that he was calm and he appeared relaxed at the pre-match press conference, laughing and joking with Italy captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
The match has an added significance for Buffon, who is set to retire at the end of the season.