With only two World Cup qualifiers left to play, Italy’s chances of finishing atop the group standings are looking slimmer and slimmer by each minute that ticks off the clock. Italy aren’t just three points behind Spain, but La Furia Roja’s goal differential is completely out of reach following their dismantling of Liechtenstein last month.
Because of that, the state of Italy’s qualifying group is as follows:
What does this all mean?
Well, I think it’s safe to say that, at this point, Italy are bound for a playoff game barring any kind of drastic and unforeseen circumstances. That means, basically, that Italy is playing for the best possible position when it comes to determining there playoff opponent.
They have two games to determine said positioning. The first of those games is tonight at a place that is quite familiar to some of the Juventus contingent that has been with them through the good times and the bad.
Juventus’ old home in Turin, the Stadio Olimpico, will be the host to Italy’s second-to-last World Cup qualifier, a 20:45 CET matchup against Macedonia. Yes, the same Macedonia that we see above is sitting in fifth place out of six teams and won’t be seeing it’s summer occupied by games taking place in Russia. And yes, it’s the same Macedonia team that Italy beat 3-2 last October thanks to Ciro Immobile’s last-minute game-winner.
I’m thinking that a replication of that game isn’t going to be what Mr. Ventura wants to see with just a short time between the end of the qualifiers and the playoff round.
Okay, he’s probably not the only one, either.
All there’s left is two games to go to see just where things stand heading into the next international break when the playoff round will take place. One-hundred-eighty minutes. That’s it. It seems like it’s a pretty good time for Italy to not struggle against teams they should be beating, but that’s just me.
Location: Stadio Olimpico, Turin, Italy
Kick-off time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Spain; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. on the East Coast; 11:45 a.m. on the West Coast
Italy starting XI (3-4-3): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Zappacosta, Parolo, Gagliardini, Darmian; Verdi, Immobile, Insigne
Italy bench: Donnarumma, Perin, Astori, D’Ambrosio, Spinazzola, Barella, Candreva, Rugani, Eder, Cristante, Bernardeschi, Gabbiadini
Macedonia starting XI (4-3-3): Dimitrievski; Ristovski, Musliu, Velkoski; Radeski, Spirovski, Bardi, Alioski; Pandev, Nestorovski, Hasani
Macedonia bench: Nilson, Shiskovski, Tosevski, Doriev, Zajkov, Trajkovski, Trickovski, Jahovic
TV: Fox Sports 2 USA, Univision Deportes USA (United States); Sportsnet World (Canada); Sky Sports Red Button (United Kingdom); RAI Uno (Italy)
Online/Mobile: FOX Sports GO, FOX Soccer Match Pass, fuboTV (United States); Sportsnet World Now (Canada); Sky Go UK, KY GO Extra (United Kingdom); Premium Play, SKY Go Italia (Italy)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven't already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.
And don't forget to like our page on Facebook, either!