Mancini wants to ‘bring Italy back where it belongs’
MILAN (AP) — A year after its stunning elimination by Sweden in a World Cup playoff, Italy is back at the San Siro stadium for another potentially decisive match.
The Azzurri have to beat Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal on Saturday and then hope the European champion does not defeat Poland three days later in order to reach the UEFA Nations League finals.
Former Italy coach Ventura hired at last-place Chievo
VERONA, Italy (AP) — Former Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has been hired by last-place Serie A club Chievo Verona.
It's the first job for Ventura since he was fired nearly a year ago for Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup.
Chievo announced Wednesday that it has reached a two-year deal with Ventura.
The 70-year-old Ventura replaces Lorenzo D'Anna, who was fired on Tuesday following Chievo's 3-1 loss at AC Milan, the club's sixth loss in eight matches.
Last-place Chievo fires coach Lorenzo D’Anna
VERONA, Italy (AP) — Last-place Chievo Verona has fired coach Lorenzo D'Anna in the first managerial change of this season's Serie A.
The move was made two days after Chievo's 3-1 loss at AC Milan, the club's sixth loss in eight matches.
Chievo's only points have come from two draws and the squad has minus-1 point after being deducted three points last month for false accounting.
ST. GALLEN, Switzerland (AP) — Mari Balotelli marked his return to the Italy team with the opening goal as the Azzurri beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in an international friendly on Monday in Roberto Mancini's first match in charge.
Balotelli, who last played for Italy in the 2014 World Cup, broke the deadlock in the 21st minute and Andrea Belotti doubled his side's advantage before Yahya Al-Shehri pulled one back thanks to two errors in the Italian defense.
MILAN (AP) — Mario Balotelli could make his first appearance for Italy in nearly four years after the Nice forward was named in a 30-man squad by new coach Roberto Mancini on Saturday.
Balotelli last played for Italy in the 2014 World Cup, where the Azzurri was eliminated at the group stage. He was called up by Antonio Conte in November of that year but was forced to withdraw from the squad with injury.
Roberto Mancini is Italy coach
ROME (AP) — Roberto Mancini has been confirmed as Italy's new coach.
The Italian football federation made the announcement late Monday, saying Mancini will be introduced on Tuesday but without providing contract details.
Mancini replaces Gian Piero Ventura, who was fired in November after the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades.
Luigi Di Biagio guided Italy in an interim role for recent friendlies.
ROME (AP) — The Italian football federation is in talks with Roberto Mancini about taking over the Azzurri's vacant coaching job.
Federation commissioner Roberto Fabbricini told the ANSA news agency that after a meeting Monday, Mancini said he was "open to leaving his job with Zenit St. Petersburg to become head coach of the national team."
ROME (AP) — Zenit Saint Petersburg manager Roberto Mancini is the top candidate to become Italy coach after Carlo Ancelotti reportedly turned down the job.
Mancini tells RAI state radio, "There has not been contact with the (Italian football) federation but, for a coach, the Italian national team would be a source of honor and prestige."
Italian media reported over the weekend that Ancelotti informed the federation he was no longer interested.
ROME (AP) — Patrick Cutrone and Federico Chiesa, both 20-year-old forwards, have received their first call-ups to Italy's squad for friendlies against Argentina and England.
Mario Balotelli remained excluded despite his strong form with Nice.
Italy faces Argentina on Friday in Manchester, England, then plays England in London four days later.
Italy will play its first game since a playoff loss to Sweden in November excluded the Azzurri from the World Cup for the first time in six decades.
Luigi Di Biagio takes over as Italy coach on caretaker basis
ROME (AP) — Italy Under-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio was promoted to take over the senior national team on a caretaker basis on Monday for friendlies against Argentina and England next month.
The Azzurri have been without a coach since November, when Gian Piero Ventura was fired following a playoff loss to Sweden that ruled Italy out of the World Cup for the first time in six decades.
Italy bosses speak to Mancini about becoming Azzurri coach
ROME (AP) — The Italian soccer federation talked to Roberto Mancini on Friday about the possibility of becoming the next coach of the national team and also plans to approach Chelsea coach Antonio Conte about a possible return.
The 53-year-old Mancini, who has coached Manchester City and Inter Milan, is among several candidates for the role — along with Conte, Carlo Ancelotti and Claudio Ranieri.
Italy’s World Cup fallout deepens as Tavecchio resigns
ROME (AP) — First it was the captain. Then the coach. And now it's the president.
One by one, the totems of Italian soccer are stepping aside.
Gianluigi Buffon made the first move when he announced his retirement from the national team after the Azzurri's failure to qualify for the World Cup.
Two days later, coach Gian Piero Ventura was fired amid widespread criticism.
Ventura doesn’t resign after Italy fails to make World Cup
The prevailing theme for Gian Piero Ventura's run as Italy coach was that the 69-year-old journeyman manager was in far over his head.
Having never coached a major club before taking over the national team last year, Ventura covered himself in disgrace on Monday when four-time champion Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades.
Ventura was widely criticized for poor tactical decisions before and after Sweden's 1-0 aggregate win over the Azzurri.
Reaction to Italy’s failure to qualify for World Cup
MILAN (AP) — Reaction to Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup after losing the playoff to Sweden 1-0 on aggregate on Monday:
"I feel I have to apologize to Italians for the result." — Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura.
"It is upsetting that my last match decided we didn't qualify for the World Cup." — Retiring Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon.
"I'm sorry. Not for me, though, but for (Italy)." — Buffon
Ventura calls on Italy to combat physicality with talent
MILAN (AP) — Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura is hoping his players can combat Sweden's physicality with their footballing talent when they meet again in the second leg of their World Cup playoff on Monday.
Italy was outraged at Sweden's physical approach in the first leg, protesting for yellow cards at perceived excessive contact, and Ventura felt Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir was too lenient.
Italy forward Zaza in doubt for playoff against Sweden
ROME (AP) — Italy forward Simone Zaza injured his left knee in training on Thursday, a day before the first leg of a World Cup playoff against Sweden.
The Italian soccer federation said Zaza stopped training because of a "flare-up of a previous problem with his left knee."
Zaza travelled with the rest of the squad to Sweden but is in doubt for Friday's match.
Italy’s plan for Sweden in WCup playoff: ‘Play like Italy’
ROME (AP) — Italy has a straightforward plan to avoid missing its first World Cup in six decades — just play its usual game in the playoff against Sweden.
After all, Italy has gone unbeaten against Sweden in their last five meetings and won four of the encounters, including 1-0 last year at the European Championship.
Perhaps making matters less complicated, standout striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired from Sweden duty after Euro 2016.
Zaza, Florenzi back in Italy squad for World Cup playoff
MILAN (AP) — Simone Zaza and Alessandro Florenzi are back in the Italy squad for the first time in a year, and there was also a surprise call-up for Jorghino for the World Cup playoff against Sweden.
Zaza was recalled on Saturday after eight goals in the striker's last seven league games for Valencia. Roma's Florenzi returned after twice rupturing the ACL in his knee.
Italy to face Sweden in World Cup playoffs
ZURICH (AP) — Four-time champion Italy will have to beat Sweden in a European playoff to qualify for its 15th straight World Cup.
A regular at every World Cup since 1958, the Italians were drawn Tuesday to play in Sweden in the first leg of the playoff on Nov. 10.
"A World Cup without Italy isn't a World Cup," said Italy team manager Gabriele Oriali, representing coach Gian Piero Ventura at the draw at FIFA headquarters.
Still alive: Teams chasing World Cup spots through playoffs
A look at the lineup of teams in the intercontinental and European playoffs for the 2018 World Cup in Russia:
EUROPEAN PLAYOFFS (matches to be confirmed)
Four-time world champion Italy will be favored to qualify no matter which opponent it faces, yet the Azzurri aren't in top form after four discouraging results — a 3-0 loss to Spain, slim 1-0 wins over Israel and Albania, and a 1-1 draw with Macedonia.
Italy facing ‘limitations’ in bid to qualify for World Cup
So often a country with a seemingly limitless supply of world-class talent, Italy's national soccer team is facing "some limitations" as it tries to qualify for the World Cup.
The four-time world champions ended up second in their group, finishing behind Spain, and will have to win a two-leg playoff against another European team to qualify for next year's tournament in Russia.
Italy beats Albania 1-0 to secure top seed status in playoff
Italy scraped past Albania 1-0 in its last World Cup qualifier, another poor effort which will do little to inspire confidence in coach Gian Piero Ventura and his team.
Italy was already guaranteed second spot and a playoff berth from Europe Group G, and Antonio Candreva's second-half goal ensured it of top-seed status in the draw.
The Azzurri finished five points behind Spain, which won in Israel 1-0. Macedonia beat Liechtenstein 4-0 in the match between the two bottom sides in the group.
Italy held by Macedonia 1-1, almost into World Cup playoffs
TURIN, Italy (AP) — Italy all but secured a qualifying playoff spot for next year's World Cup but it was booed off the pitch after drawing with Macedonia 1-1 on Friday.
Defender Giorgio Chiellini gave Italy the lead shortly before halftime but Macedonia leveled through substitute Aleksandar Trajkovski with 13 minutes remaining.
Italy relying on Immobile to reach 2018 World Cup
MILAN (AP) — Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura believes not qualifying for the World Cup would be "a catastrophe," while midfielder Marco Parolo says the Azzurri have "an obligation" to reach next year's tournament in Russia.
But there is a very real chance that when the tournament kicks off on June 14, it will be without the four-time champion.
Injured De Rossi and Pellegrini replaced in Italy squad
FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Roma midfielders Daniele De Rossi and Lorenzo Pellegrini pulled out of the Italy squad on Monday for World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Albania.
Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura called up midfielders Roberto Gagliardini and Bryan Cristante. It is a maiden call-up for Cristante.
Injured Verratti out of Italy squad, replaced by Barella
MILAN (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti has pulled out of the Italy squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Albania.
He was replaced by the uncapped Nicolo Barella.
Verratti played 79 minutes of Saturday's 6-2 win over Bordeaux before he was taken off with an unspecified injury.
It is a maiden call-up for the 20-year-old Barella. The Cagliari midfielder only made his debut for Italy's under-21 side last month.
Italy beats Israel 1-0 to virtually secure playoff place
REGGIO EMILIA, Italy (AP) — Italy all but secured a playoff place after laboring to a 1-0 victory over Israel in their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.
Ciro Immobile scored the only goal in the 53rd minute. It was an abject performance from Italy, which was jeered off the pitch at halftime.
"In the first half we did everything we shouldn't have done," Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura said. "The second half was better, we kept creating chances."
Italy coach Ventura signs new contract until 2020
ROME (AP) — Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura will remain in charge of the Azzurri until 2020 after signing a new contract on Wednesday.
Carlo Tavecchio, the president of the Italian football federation, announced the two-year extension in a news conference with Ventura.
Italy coach Ventura brings in youth to build team
FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura is counting on his youngsters.
Ventura has not been afraid to bring in new players since he took charge after the 2016 European Championship, including giving teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma his debut.
Italy coach Ventura calls up 4 new players to squad
MILAN (AP) — Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has called up four new players to his squad for upcoming matches against Albania and the Netherlands.
Bologna winger Simone Verdi, Atalanta defender Leonardo Spinazzola, Inter Milan defender Danilo D'Ambrosio and goalkeeper Alex Meret, who plays for Serie B side Spal, have been included for the first time.
ROME (AP) — Genoa defender Armando Izzo could be banned for six years in a match-fixing scandal.
The Italian federation has asked for the suspension and a fine of 20,000 euros ($21,000) for Izzo, who was called up the Italian national team for the first time in November for the World Cup qualifying match against Liechtenstein and friendly against Germany.
"It's a blow, I didn't expect it," Izzo said. "The truth will come out but at the moment I'm going through a nightmare."
Red cards could prevent Balotelli from rejoining Italy squad
FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Mario Balotelli's chances of returning to Italy's national team have not been helped by three red cards in the French league.
Italy team manager Gabriele Oriali reminded reporters Tuesday of the squad's code of ethics.
Oriali says "there are a few clear rules that must be respected, and then there are the rules that clubs have. For Mario, as has already been said, his possibility of returning here depends on him."