Italy hold crisis talks

Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon admits that the players held an emergency meeting after their 1-1 draw with Macedonia.

Despite last Friday’s disappointing draw, the Azzurri have booked their place in the intercontinental World Cup play-offs as Group G runners-up to Spain.

Ahead of the final qualifier away to Albania on Monday, the Juventus goalkeeper admitted that the players gathered without manager Giampiero Ventura to discuss their below-par showings.

“It happens in big clubs too,” Buffon said. “We players spoke to each other and hope this can help pave the way for new success.

“All this happened with the full consent and knowledge of the staff and Coach. It was all in the harsh light of day, there was no need to hide anything.

“Tomorrow we should start to see responses and I hope we can rediscover a team with a clear identity, with unity and the kind of soul the upcoming challenges require. In those games, we need to be a Team with a Capital T.”

Ventura is looking to bring the younger generation into the national team, but says he is happy for the more experienced players to have their say as well, and he too will “expect improvements compared to the Macedonia game”.

“I am satisfied with what we’ve seen over the last 14-15 months,” Ventura said. “When I started this job a year and a half ago, I said the Nazionale of the Euros was getting on a bit and it would be necessary to introduce a gradual generational shift.

“At the same time, it couldn’t do without those who made history with the Nazionale and I hope will continue to make history, such as Buffon, De Rossi, Bonucci, etc. I consider them reference points in the locker room.

“Yesterday they asked me to have this meeting, but not to talk about systems or tactics, but rather than spirit you need when wearing the Italy jersey, the spirit you need to go through the World Cup play-offs and to reach the tournament.

“This is why I thank the veterans publicly for their actions, as they wanted to speak to the younger members of the squad and pass on their experience. This is an important step forward for the group.

“For the Nazionale, as with any club, you must give young players time to metabolise and understand the difficulties. You can’t expect them to come in and immediately make the difference.

“All these veterans I mentioned, they didn’t just get to this level all of a sudden. The work we’re doing now with the next generation will help form the future veterans of the Italy squad.”