Italian support waning for Ventura's formation

MILAN • Italy coach Giampiero Ventura's ambitious 4-2-4 system is losing its appeal among Italy supporters following Saturday's 3-0 mauling by Spain and Tuesday's nervous 1-0 win over Israel in the World Cup qualifiers.

The 69-year-old is regarded as one of Italy's most innovative coaches and his decision to introduce the 4-2-4 formation which he used in his club career was initially greeted with mild curiosity by the fans and media alike.

That turned to apprehension when he deployed the system in their crucial Group G qualifier away to Spain last Saturday which saw Italy overrun and outclassed in a 3-0 defeat.

Undeterred, Ventura stuck with it on Tuesday, fielding Marco Verratti and Daniele de Rossi in the centre of midfield, Antonio Candreva and Lorenzo Insigne as wide attackers and Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti in the centre of the forward line.

But, with little movement from the strikers, Italy produced a sluggish first-half display and were jeered off at half-time.

They improved enough after the break to secure the three points with a goal from Immobile.

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said supporters did not have the patience for a slow build-up.

"Possession of the ball is not valued in Italy. In Spain, when they string 100 passes together, the whole stadium applauds but not here," the 39-year-old said.

Italy remain second in the table and, unless leaders Spain suffer an unexpected slip-up in their final two games, their fate is now likely to be determined over a two-leg play-off next month.

Italy may avoid a potential clash with Portugal, after Fifa confirmed that teams will be seeded in the draw for the play-offs.

The winners of the nine European groups go directly to Russia while the best eight of the nine runners-up go into the play-offs.

The top four teams according to the Fifa rankings would go into one pot for the draw on Oct 17 while the remaining four will be in another, the world body said.

The teams currently in second place in the groups are Sweden (19th in the Fifa rankings), Portugal (sixth), Northern Ireland (23rd), Wales (18th), Montenegro (52nd), Slovakia (22nd), Italy (12th), Bosnia (30th) and Iceland (20th).

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2017, with the headline 'Italian support waning for Ventura's formation'. Print Edition | Subscribe