Giorgio Chiellini made an appeal to media and Juventus to “surround the Nazionale with positivity and not stir up trouble.”
The defender spoke to Rai Sport after a 2-2 draw in Bulgaria, which saw Italy take an early lead, go 2-1 down before the break and snatch a late equaliser through Eder.
“We started so well, but then made mistakes, as we knew that counter-attacks were their greatest strengths and we lost two balls to concede two goals in quick succession,” said Chiellini.
“I think we showed grit and determination. It’s true we scored late, but we had the chances to get goals much earlier.
“Italy have never won in Bulgaria. We were a little naive to concede those two goals and it turned into an uphill struggle, but this side has ideas, fought hard and tried to the end. We were so close to celebrating what would’ve been a deserved victory.
“It was a great sign from players like Marco Verratti, Andrea Bertolacci and Eder, who seemed like they had been in the Azzurri for years.
“We would’ve liked to celebrate a win and get closer to qualification, but we do get some interesting ideas from this game.”
Naturally, he had to be asked about the furious row between Juventus and Antonio Conte, which even saw some fans make death threats.
“It was a tormented build-up. This Coach and this team does not deserve to be treated like this. I would like everyone to help this Nazionale grow and nurture it, not constantly stir up controversy.
“I was fortunate enough to be a part of this Italy squad, we are starting a new era with a generational shift. If you look at the line-up tonight compared to our last trip to Bulgaria two years ago, you’ll see the difference.
“In order to grow together we need help from everyone to look after the side and not try to cause trouble.
“Conte has been able to change the inertia of Juventus after two negative years and made history, but he too needs help from the outside.
“Now we hope to find a lot of enthusiasm in Turin on Tuesday against England and I send an appeal to the media that this Nazionale needs to grow surrounded by positivity and not negativity.”
Conte will be in the belly of the beast on Tuesday, as Italy host England in the Juventus Stadium.
“Let’s all appeal that any ‘afters’ from the last few years be put aside for the common good of Italian football.
“In club football we have seen improvements already and it’s an important step that we can get closer to England in the rankings for next year.
“Now this Nazionale represents the country and ought to be treated as such. I am sure the welcome will be good in Turin. We can’t wait to get out there.”