Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Italy v Norway: Top spot the prize for the hosts in Rome

SoccerNews in European Championships 11 Oct 2015

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Italy can clinch top spot in Group H of Euro 2016 qualifying when they welcome a Norway side still needing to seal an automatic qualification place ahead of Croatia.

While Per-Mathias Hogmo’s Norway beat Malta 2-0 at the weekend, Italy sealed their passage to the competition in France next year with a 3-1 victory over Azerbaijan in Baku. 

Top spot and a possible boost in their efforts to be among the top seeds are what Antonio Conte’s men have to play for in Rome while Norway know a victory will see them climb above their opponents and finish the campaign as group winners.

A point could prove enough for Norway to go through automatically – with a play-off place already guaranteed.

Croatia trail Tuesday’s visitors by two points ahead of their final qualifier away to Malta and Hogmo does not expect Italy to take it easy at the Stadio Olimpico.

“It’s possible Italy will be more relaxed after they qualified but they certainly won’t make it easier for us,” said the Norway boss, who could be without Per Ciljan Skelbred due to a knock.

“It will be a game that is open to any result. Italy away from home is probably the most difficult away game you can have. It is an extremely difficult match.

“No-one has beaten them in qualifying in Italy since the 90s, that says everything.”

Italy have not lost in 38 qualifiers on home soil – a run stretching back to September 1999 – and will hope to give Conte further encouragement after impressing in his new-look 4-2-4 formation in Baku.

The Italians have not lost in 15 competitive outings in their capital, with former Juventus boss Conte eager to make the most of any rankings boost that may become available.

“Now we have to think of recovery,” he said.

“We absolutely want to go to Rome with the intention of getting all three points. The factor regarding the top seeded team is somewhat bizarre.

“Croatia are ahead of us in the FIFA rankings but we are ahead of them in the group standings. It’s a system that I have difficulty understanding.”

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