Milan (AFP) – Coach Giampiero Ventura has defended his record despite a mixed World Cup qualifying campaign which has seen Italy slip in the world rankings.

Four-time world champions Italy are second behind Spain in European qualifying Group G for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

A 3-0 defeat in Madrid last week all but ended their hopes of automatic qualification. It was followed by a 1-0 win over Israel, but they face the prospect of a play-off to reach the finals.

“I am the first to know it, my future is linked to the results,” said Ventura ahead of the next two qualifiers against Macedonia in Turin and Albania away in October.

“We lost to Spain, but the Under-21s lost too and Juventus in Barcelona, as well as Roma, suffered a lot,” continued Ventura of the Italian clubs’ Champions League problems.

“We had a national team which was advanced in age, we want to leave it more competitive,” he continued.

“It’s not only results on the pitch which count. We’ve made clubs understand the motivations and benefits of training camps.

“Ground must be made up through learning and hard work.”

Italy have dropped five places in the latest FIFA rankings, and are now in 17th position, below Peru and Wales.

The 69-year-old former Torino boss took over on a two-year deal after Antonio Conte left to join Chelsea in June last year.

He signed a new two-year contract in August to lead the Azzurri to the 2020 European Championship.

Italy matched their previous worst ranking under Conte when they fell to 17th in July 2015.