Italy manager Antonio Conte has been struggling to put his own impression on the national team.
The highly successful former Juventus manager was expected to reform the national team from the bottom up. However, results are also expected from the manager during this period. It is something that Conte has managed to deliver but on a highly inconsistent basis. The team has lost some high profile matches already and they have been going into the World Cup 2018 qualification draw at a high disadvantages due to this aspect. The rankings of the Italian national team has dropped significantly since the World Cup 2014 exit.
This placed them at the mercy of the draw when it came to qualifying for the World Cup 2018. There was a possibility of being grouped alongside heavyweights like Germany. Both these previous winners had a much better ranking than Italy. However, Conte breathed a sigh of relief after he learned that Spain would be an opponent. The Spanish would have been major favourites for the title a few years ago, but this is not the same all-conquering side. As a result, Italy appear to be relatively confident that they can reach the World Cup 2018 as the group winners without having to go through a play-off.
"It is a tough group, however, I prefer to think that Spain could boost us. I don't like the word 'difficult'. It will be a stimulating challenge against one of the strongest in the world. I am sure that we can do well and we can have good performances.Spain is not the best draw, but Germany would have been worse.In theory, Italy and Spain are the favourite teams in the group.However, Albania have started playing really well in the Euro qualifying, so they have chances to qualify,” said Conte.