'Italy will struggle in World Cup play-offs if we play like that' – Ventura blasts Macedonia showing

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A draw at home on Friday set some alarm bells ringing for Azzurri coach as they remain unsure of their place in the finals

Italy coach Giampiero Ventura blasted his side's second-half performance in Friday's 1-1 draw with Macedonia, conceding that they could struggle in the World Cup play-offs if they do not improve.

Spain secured their progression to Russia as Group G winners on Friday, meaning Italy will have to settle for a place in the second round of qualifying.

Although Italy will likely be considered among the favourites in the play-offs, Ventura is demanding that they perform better after a disappointing showing against Macedonia.

Giorgio Chiellini gave them the lead just before the break, but a late equaliser saw Italy slump to a poor result and Ventura was alarmed by their performance in the second period, even if he stressed that Macedonia are better than people give them credit for.

He told reporters: "If we play like we did in the second half then we will struggle to get through the play-offs. It doesn't take a coach to realise that.

"If from here to the play-offs we can add a few more players who actually play [at club level], but evidently those are two different situations.

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

"In the last six minutes, Leonardo Bonucci moved up to act as a centre-forward because the team wanted a victory. In the second half we weren't as aggressive, but that doesn't mean we lacked confidence.

"Macedonia lost only one game in 2017 and it was 2-1 to Spain, and in the 95th minute they could've equalised. We're not talking about Spain or Germany, but they are still a good side."

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