Ventura set for Italy debut with France in World Cup qualifying

Milan (AFP) – Chelsea jokes aside, Giampiero Ventura is hoping to pick up where Antonio Conte left off when he leads a new-look Italy for the first time in a friendly against beaten Euro 2016 finalists France on Thursday.

“I want to take Antonio’s project forward,” Ventura told media Monday, a week before making his competitive debut as coach of Italy in a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Israel in Haifa.

“If I follow his path, then I know where to go in two years — Chelsea!”

At 68 years old and now realising a long-held dream of coaching the four-time World Cup winners, Ventura is highly unlikely to follow 46-year-old Conte’s path to Stamford Bridge.

He has more pressing concerns, namely maintaining the hopes of Italy fans and federation chiefs following a promising Euro 2016 campaign that was only ended by a dramatic quarter-final penalty shoot-out to Germany.

For the first time since their last World Cup triumph in 2006, Italy –…

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