Midfielder Marco Verratti is looking to put the disappointment of missing Euro 2016 behind him as Italy kick-off their World Cup qualifying campaign in Israel this evening (7.45pm).
The 23-year-old had to sit out this summer’s tournament because of a groin injury. But, having made his international comeback as a sub in Thursday’s friendly defeat to France, he is raring to get going under new coach Giampiero Ventura.
“I am happy to be back with the national side,” the Paris St Germain midfielder told a press conference.
“I’m at 100% even if I still need to rediscover my match fitness. I want to be part of this new era, I hope it’s a winning era. We have really big objectives and this means that we are a big national side because we aim for the best.
“I often speak with Ventura about my position on the pitch; playmakers are often man-marked and so the coach wants to play me as an attacking midfielder which I’m comfortable with.
“Compared to before (under Antonio Conte) we perhaps look to keep the ball more in order to create space where we can do damage.”
Italy’s group contains fellow heavyweights Spain, as well as Israel, Macedonia, Albania and Liechtenstein.
“We have been put in a difficult group, but if we do what we can then we have a good chance of getting through,” added Verratti. “On Thursday we put France under difficulty and they are a quality side, although they were superior to us in individual moments.”
Ventura has also been boosted by Leonardo Bonucci’s arrival to join up with the squad after the Juventus defender missed the France defeat due to personal reasons.
However, he will be without Daniele De Rossi after the Roma midfielder withdrew from the squad with a calf injury sustained against France.
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