Sep 05, 2016

    Israel are not France, says Italy coach ahead of tie


    NEW Italy coach Giampiero Ventura said he was unconcerned by Thursday's home defeat to France ahead of his team's opening World Cup qualifier in Israel today.

    The 2006 World Cup champions slumped to a 3-1 defeat in Bari on Thursday

    but Ventura, who took over the Azzurri hot seat from

    Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, does not expect

    such a stern test in Haifa.

    "With the greatest of respect, Israel aren't France.

    "We will analyse (the) match, we'll look at some errors that we can avoid

    and I'm sure we'll put in

    a better performance," Ventura, 68, added.

    Italy are expected to battle with Spain for top spot in Group G and the only automatic qualification place.

    The 2010 world champions begin their campaign against minnows Liechtenstein

    while Albania and Macedonia round out the group.

    The winners of each group will qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

    The eight best runners-up advance to the play-offs.

    Midfield orchestrator Marco Verratti, who missed the 2016 European Championships due to injury, said Italy are up for the task.

    "We have been put in a difficult group but if we do what what we can, then

    we have a good chance of getting through," he added.

    Israel are looking to qualify for their first World Cup

    since 1970.

    They will also start their qualifying campaign with a new manager after Eli Guttman resigned following four mediocre years in charge, with Elisha Levy stepping in.

    Israel captain Eran Zahavi said his team are aiming

    for qualification despite lining up with two of Europe's heavyweights in their group.

    "Do not stop believing,

    we will not give up and

    we will give it our all,"

    said the 28-year-old Guangzhou forward.