Leonardo Bonucci warned Italy “aren’t qualified yet” for the World Cup despite their 1-0 win over Bulgaria.
“The team’s character, a great Gigi Buffon that saved us and our unity were the best things about tonight. It’s no coincidence Bulgaria were second in the group, as they are a solid side,” he told Rai Sport.
“At this time of year you do feel the physical strain and we struggled towards the end. We went a bit too deep in the second half too, but we had to bring back the three points and we achieved that.”
The Azzurri are now seven points clear at the top of Group B and host the Czech Republic at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday.
“We haven’t qualified yet, so we have to go to Turin and get the result we need. We knew Armenia had won in the Czech Republic before our kick-off and so had to put even more grit in to bring home this result.
“This is a great team and we’re going to Turin in order to secure our World Cup place.”
An injury to Ignazio Abate forced a reshuffle at the back, so Giorgio Chiellini went to left-back.
“Chiellini loves being in the centre, but he’s a great lad and did very well at left-back. He even earned us a corner, so he’s not that bad on the left!” joked his Italy and Juventus teammate.
“I played in a four-man defence for most of my career. I like playing in a three as it helps me to bring out some of my qualities, but I work hard and still have my Juventus teammates around me for Italy.”
Alberto Gilardino got the winner in Palermo, just days after his transfer deadline move to Juventus fell through.
“There were negotiations for Gila and unfortunately it didn’t go through, as it’s always better to have him as a teammate than an opponent.”