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Italy call up Verdi as play-offs loom


Rome (AFP) – Italy’s under-pressure coach Giampiero Ventura on Saturday recalled Bologna midfielder Simone Verdi to his squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Albania.

After losing 3-0 to Spain in Madrid earlier this month, Ventura’s squad has given up hope of winning Group G and automatic qualification for next summer’s finals in Russia.

The four-times world champions need only a point from the two matches to secure second place in the group and a spot in the play-offs.

But the Azzurri could do with maximum points to boost their standing in the world rankings (they are currently 17th), and ensure they are seeded for the play-off draw next month.

Verdi, who is attracting considerable interest from English Premier League clubs led by West Ham, made his Italy debut in March in a friendly against Holland.

The 25-year-old is an attacking midfielder capable of operating on either flank with a knack of scoring spectacular goals.

Italy face Macedonia in Turin on October 6 and then travel to Albania for an October 9 clash that will be the country’s 800th international, and their first on Albanian soil.

Albania are managed by former Italy defender Christian Panucci.

Italy squad

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa)

Defenders Davide Astori (Fiorentina), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter Milan), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United/ENG), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Leonardo Spinazzola (Atalanta), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain/FRA), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Antonio Candreva (Inter Milan), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Simone Verdi (Bologna)

Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Eder Citadin Martins (Inter Milan), Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton/ENG), Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

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