Saturday October 7 2017
Panucci: 'Negativity around Italy'

Albania Coach Christian Panucci acknowledges it’ll be strange facing Italy in the World Cup qualifier, but “there's too much negativity” around the Azzurri.

The final group game is in Shkoder on Monday at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT).

“It’ll be an incredible feeling to be facing my own country, but I am a professional and will defend my work to the death,” Panucci told Mediaset Premium.

“I am hard on the outside, but I too have a heart. I’ll motivate my lads to give their best.

“I won’t sing the Italian anthem, because to be fair I never did even when I was a player. I preferred to keep that moment inside myself, always with respect, listening and feeling those emotions within me. I’ll do the same again on Monday.”

The Azzurri have qualified for the World Cup play-offs, as Bosnia lost 4-3 to Belgium this evening, but need a boost against Albania to ensure their FIFA ranking and top seed status in the draw.

Giampiero Ventura has been lambasted in the media after the 1-1 draw with Macedonia, but Panucci is not concerned.

“It is perfectly understandable to finish second in a group behind Spain, but we know that in Italy there is often too much negativity.

“Ventura inherited the squad in a difficult moment for Italian football. He teaches the sport, launched many careers of young players and I really admire him.”

Panucci has taken over from Gianni De Biasi, overseeing a 2-0 win over Liechtenstein, 1-1 draw in Macedonia and 3-0 defeat to Spain.

“Albania have solid foundations and we are targeting qualification for Euro 2020. I bring my ideas, knowing that I have worked with some of the best Coaches in my career and learned a great deal.”

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