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Published: Thu, October 12, 2017
Medical | By Garry George

Italy seeded for playoff draw (3)

Italy seeded for playoff draw (3)

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura said his side had bounced back from last month's heavy defeat to Spain after they sealed a place in the World Cup qualification playoffs.

Right winger Antonio Candreva's goal helped Italy beat Albania 1-0 to earn seeding in an European zone second-round play-off of the 2018 football World Cup qualifiers.

The Azzurri finished five points behind Spain, which won in Israel 1-0. We have a few limitations at the moment, and some injury emergencies, but we wanted to try things out.

"We achieved the objectives that were set for us".

"I think we have taken another small step forward".

Italy were already assured of a play-off spot for next summer's tournament in Russian Federation despite their disappointing 1-1 draw against Macedonia on Friday night which saw them fall five points behind Group G winners Spain.

Without injured key players such as Claudio Marchisio, Daniele De Rossi, Marco Verratti and Andrea Belotti, Ventura opted to employ an experimental 4-2-4 formation in Shkoder.

And while the visitors began to take a stranglehold on the game as the opening half wore on - with Ciro Immobile firing a close-range shot at Albania goalkeeper Etrit Berisha - they largely failed to create any clear chances.

At the other end, Eros Grezda forced a big save from a diving Buffon.

Italy broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute when Leonardo Spinazzola put in a precise cross from the left to the far post for Candreva to fire into the roof of the net.

The Spaniards also won 1-0 in their final qualifier, after Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi scored a first global goal away to Israel.

"We knew this was a hard game for different reasons but we wanted to win and take another step towards recovering our winning mentality which could help us go on and win the World Cup", Spain goalkeeper Pepe Reina told reporters. Israel was already out of contention.

Liechtenstein concluded one of the worst qualifying campaigns ever with a 4-0 loss to Macedonia. They have finished as runners-up in the group.

Visar Musliu and Aleksandar Trajkovski netted in the first half for Macedonia and Enis Bardi and Arijan Ademi extended the hosts' lead after the interval.

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