Shkodër (Albania) (AFP) – Antonio Candreva lifted Italy to a 1-0 win over Albania in their final World Cup qualifying game on Monday that assures the Azzurri are top seeds for November’s play-offs.
Gian Piero Ventura’s side were already through to next month’s play-offs, but desperately needed a win in Shkoder to be guaranteed the status of top seeds in the draw on October 17.
“This was the objective we had set. I think we took another small step forward, but we continue to control the game badly and give the ball away too often,” said Ventura.
“I had faith when people said the situation was dramatic and I have faith now.”
After a tight first half, Inter Milan winger Candreva found the way through after 73 minutes at the Loro Borici Stadium.
Atalanta midfielder Leonardo Spinazzola packed a neat cross from the left for the 30-year-old who rifled into the top of the net from close range to mark his 50th selection for the Azzurri.
“We wanted to prove ourselves after the Macedonia game (1-1),” said Candreva.
“Victories can’t be taken for granted. We talked and realised that we had to get back together and be solid going into the play-offs.
“We need the spirit of sacrifice, humility and that Italian character that represents us.”
The four-time world champions finished second in Group G behind Spain, who booked their ticket to Russia as group winners, with Italy through to the play-offs on November 9 and 14 as one of the eight best second-placed teams.
Reeling from last month’s defeat in Madrid to Spain, Ventura had come under fire after Friday’s dire draw with Macedonia in Turin.
And his injury-depleted side were still without stalwarts Andrea Belotti, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Barzagli, Marco Verratti and Lorenzo Pellegrini.
Italy had a strong call for a penalty turned down in the first half with Ciro Immobile also going close to getting the opener on 21 minutes but Atalanta goalkeeper Etrit Berisha cleared.
Veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon saved early efforts from Napoli defender Elseid Hysaj and midfielder Eros Grezda.
Italy were denied a penalty appeal before the break when Eder’s cross for Immobile hit Empoli defender Frederic Veseli’s hand, but the referee waved play on, and again when Insigne was brought down on the edge of the area.
Cristian Panucci’s Albania lost their tempo midway through the second half allowing Italy space, with Candreva finding the way through.
Italy now have a month to regain confidence and some of their injured players, although top striker Belotti has already been ruled out of the play-offs.
“I hope to get some players back for the play-offs, as otherwise there might be a problem,” conceded Ventura.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
- Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
- Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Senegal’s president supports Gueye after homophobia accusations
- Roofe gives Rangers cover for Europa League final
- Lucky trousers, big dreams as Glasner leads Frankfurt to Europa League final
- Hamburg relishing play-off bid to return to Bundesliga
- Houghton picked in provisional England squad for women’s Euros
- Sebastian Hoeness sacked by Hoffenheim
- Ranking World Cup 2022 stadiums from best to worst
- Brazilian football clubs open doors to foreign investors
- Where to find Southampton vs. Liverpool on US TV
- Where to find Nottingham Forest vs. Sheffield United on US TV