Italy Coach Giampiero Ventura feels criticism after the defeat to Spain was unfair, focusing on youth and building “a new era.”
The former Torino boss was brought in to replace Antonio Conte after Euro 2016 and his first job was to significantly lower the average age of the squad.
“Receiving the call made me very proud. I had another two years on my Torino contract and a good offer from an important club too. I was wobbly to the end, but I said yes. I discovered it was a dangerous journey, but an exciting one,” the CT told Il Mattino newspaper.
Ventura was criticised for the performance in their 3-0 World Cup qualifying defeat to Spain, which means they’ll likely need play-offs to reach the tournament in Russia.
“International experience makes all the difference. After the loss to Spain, the criticism was because people thought we were stronger than Spain. The Under-21 side conceded three goals, so did we and so did Juventus against Barcelona. At this moment there is a difference in level, both in fitness and quality.
“However, if we replayed Italy-Spain in Russia, I am absolutely confident it would go differently. I’d love that to happen.
“We have two paths to take: either we wait 15 years for another Francesco Totti or Alessandro Del Piero to be born, or we start work trying to get organised and help all the young talents grow.
“It’s not our fault if for the first time only the group winners go directly to the World Cup, nor if for the first time in history we were not seeded in the draw. If you end up in the same group as Spain or Germany, you may well have to go via the play-offs, but let’s not make a drama of it.
“Obviously, if we don’t go to Russia, that would be a failure, but let’s not forget the generational shift we made just 11 months ago. In June our only ‘old’ players will be Gigi Buffon, Daniele De Rossi, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli. After the World Cup, we’ll have a squad packed with youth.
“In the last 11 games, we won eight, drew with Spain and Germany, then lost once in Madrid. Somehow that defeat wiped out all the good work done before then. If we are trying to create a new era, we need patience.
“I arrived to take over Antonio Conte’s Nazionale, which was the oldest average age of the last 50 years. That’s nothing insulting, it’s just a fact. So I studied the German Federation after their 2006 disaster and how they convinced the clubs to have one or two hours per week training in the national team style. I did the same and I convinced them.
“We gave 12 players their debuts, lowered the average age by four or five years and gave a new sense of belonging to the Azzurri.”