Italy coach Giampiero Ventura says his focus was solely on delivering three points against Israel after the disappointment of a humbling by Spain.
The Azzurri were blown away in Madrid on Saturday, losing 3-0 to leave their place at next year’s World Cup surely reliant on a two-legged play-off.
But Italy recovered some composure against Israel – despite a poor first half – and won through Ciro Immobile’s header to all but confirm a second-placed finish in Group G that should lead to a play-off berth.
Ventura conceded that was as much as he could hope for in Reggio Emilia, with little time to work on improving their overall performance.
“It was clear that the result was the priority, but I am happy,” the coach said. “I am happy because staying in the opposition half for 80 minutes is tough.
“We were sluggish in the first half but then picked up the pace and put balls into the box constantly.
— Italy (@azzurri) September 5, 2017
“It’s clear there’s a lot more work to do. We did what we could over three days [after losing to Spain], but I am satisfied with how the team worked.
“I think the players realised that if we had the same tempo [in the first half] as in the second half, we would have created many, many more chances.
“We take it one step at a time. When we look back over this game, we’ll see the progress.”
Italy can still catch Spain at the top of the pool, but it would take a shock collapse from Julen Lopetegui’s outstanding side and Ventura is happy enough with taking an alternative route to Russia.
“Everyone, from the day of the draw, said a play-off was likely, so it’s not a surprise,” he added. “If we had beaten Spain, it would have been abnormal.”
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