Italy fails to clinch World Cup play-off spot

Italy fails to clinch World Cup play-off spot

Italy fails to clinch World Cup play-off spot

Spain sealed its place in the 2018 World Cup as Group G victor after storming to a 3-0 win over Albania on Friday with a ruthless first half display, while nearest challenger Italy was held to a 1-1 draw by Macedonia.

Spain secured their progression to Russian Federation as Group G winners on Friday, meaning Italy will have to settle for a place in the second round of qualifying, with Ireland similarly aiming for a play-off position as one of the best runners-ups in European qualification.

They have a six-point advantage over third-placed Albania, who they take on on Monday.

"At this point we need a psychological turning point".

They were made to pay for their sluggish second-half display when Palermo forward Aleksandar Trajkovski lashed home in the 77th minute to claim a memorable point for Igor Angelovski's side.

"The result is not positive, it is not what we wanted, nor what we expected", said the former Torino coach.

Goalscorer Giorgio Chiellini has urged Italy fans to remain behind their nation as the Azzurri head into the uncertainty of the World Cup qualifying playoffs.

Victory would have assured Gian Piero Ventura's side of another chance to qualify behind group victor Spain, but it was unable to see out a win in Torino.

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"There is still a game to play, then we'll tackle the playoffs".

"I think the praise was exaggerated before and the criticism is exaggerated now".

Records just tumble when Gianluigi Buffon is around.

"I think Italy should never be jeered, as the team represents all of us", he added.

Macedonia will likely sit deep and look to soak up Italian pressure, but the hosts should have more than enough to breach any rearguard action.

"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.

Supporters at Turin's Stadio Olimpico turned against the players and national head coach Giampiero Ventura as Macedonia were allowed to force a 1-1 draw that confirmed Italy will finish as Group G runners-up to Spain.

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