Spain punches World Cup ticket

Posted October 08, 2017

Giorgio Chiellini's first-half goal was cancelled out by Aleksandar Trajkovski as Italy struggled to a 1-1 draw against Macedonia in Turin on Friday, condemning the four-time champions to the World Cup play-offs.

Italy now sit second in their qualifying group, three points behind Spain with just two matches remaining.

Italy have 20 points in Group G and their hopes of reaching Russian Federation now rest on finishing as one of the best eight runners-up who progress to the playoff round from the nine European groups.

A mutual lapse in discipline marred the second half, with three players booked needlessly, and Italy were unable to build momentum in their pursuit of another goal. I had moments that were positive and negative, like all coaches. We're already playing for the playoffs.

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Confidence was low after last month's 3-0 loss in Spain but, despite winning only 3-2 in Skopje previous year thanks to a stoppage-time goal, Italy was expected to easily sweep away Macedonia in Turin. "I think the whistles were deserved, even if I think you should never jeer the national side as a point of principle".

"We need to get the crowd on our side because they can help us".

Italy failed to click after halftime and were given a first warning when Gianluigi Buffon had to smother a header from Ilija Nestorovski.

It was more of the same in the second half with Macedonia content to sit back and wait for an opening.

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He told reporters: "If we play like we did in the second half then we will struggle to get through the play-offs".

"We're really frustrated. We are sorry for the fans, we understand them and we are as upset as they are, but I am sure they will support us when we need them", said Chiellini.

"That made a big difference and when that drops, the sharpness goes", he said.

Failing to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958 would certainly bring a swift end to his tenure.

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Spain cruised to a 3-0 win over Albania on Friday to secure qualification for the World Cup and put Italy on a path for the playoffs.