Milan – Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura said on Monday he had no doubt his team would qualify to challenge for a fifth World Cup title in Russia next year as they prepare for this week's play-off against Sweden.
"It's an important moment for me, for my career and for the players. By going to Russia or not they can open a cycle or close one. But I don't even consider the idea of not qualifying. We'll go to Russia for sure," Ventura told a press conference at the team's training base of Coverciano in Tuscany.
Italy travel to Sweden for the first leg of their play-off on Friday in Stockholm with the return leg in Milan's San Siro on Monday.
"I've found an extraordinarily willing and motivated group," said 69-year-old Ventura who took over in June 2016 when Antonio Conte moved to Chelsea.
"I'm calm because I have players available and because Italy have always stepped up during these do or die situations. Just see the 65 000 tickets that have already been sold for the San Siro match," he added.
Italy finished second in their qualifying group behind Spain, against whom they lost 3-0, also struggling past Israel (1-0), Macedonia (1-1) and Bulgaria (1-0).
The four-time winners have missed just two World Cup finals – the first in 1930 when they chose not to compete and in 1958 when they did not qualify.Let's