Marco Verratti “proved himself” capable of playing in a more advanced playmaker role during Italy’s 3-1 World Cup qualifying win in Israel, says head coach Giampiero Ventura.
Ventura’s competitive reign as Azzurri coach started on a winning note in Group G despite playing over 35 minutes with 10 men following a red card for Giorgio Chiellini.
Paris Saint-Germain star Verratti played a key role in setting up Graziano Pelle for the opening goal and Ventura singled out the midfielder for particular praise.
“People said Verratti couldn’t play in that role, but he proved himself a player of great value. He was out for a long time due to injury and proved how important he is to this team,” he told Rai Sport.
“Clearly being down to 10 men in a World Cup qualifier is difficult. We had a 10-minute blackout after Chiellini’s dismissal, but that was about it.”
Italy appeared to be coasting to three points following Pelle’s opener and Antonio Candreva’s penalty, but a sublime finish from Tel Ben Haim before the break and Chiellini’s second-half red card ensured a tense finish.
Ciro Immobile’s counter-attacking goal 10 minutes from the end calmed any nerves, but Ventura – whose first match in charge ended in a 3-1 friendly defeat to France – concedes there is work to be done.
“If we are convinced that we are a team in all arenas, we must show courage always,” he added.
“I won’t say our performance was perfect, as we conceded that goal similar to the one we let in against France. We worked as a team, suffered as a team and won as a team.
Italy face Spain at home in October in their next qualifier – resuming their rivalry after Italy knocked Spain out of Euro 2016 – and Ventura wants to see an improved performance from his side.
“I hope in a month against Spain that we’ll be in better shape physically and can therefore play better than tonight,” he said.
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