Italy coach Ventura wants Serie A to start earlier next year

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MILAN (AP) Italy coach Giampiero Ventura has asked league officials to start the Serie A season earlier next year to ensure the Azzurri are better prepared for their key World Cup qualifier against Spain.

Spain tops Group G, above Italy on goal after four games. The two drew 1-1 in October in Turin and the return match is scheduled for Sep. 2. Only group winners qualify directly for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

This year’s Serie A campaign began Aug. 20.

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“We’re a bit set in our ways, but everyone else starts August 13,” Ventura said. “It’s in the national interest to play on level terms. I’ve already asked to play at least two more league matches. In a moment of madness I asked for three, but they told me to check myself into hospital.”

Italy lost an international friendly 3-1 to France in Ventura’s first match in charge in September, just two matches into the league season.

“This year we had very little Serie A before playing France and we paid the price,” Ventura added. “I hadn’t even talked to any players until 48 hours before the match …We lost 3-1 and it was labeled a disaster because that’s the culture that we have here.”

Ventura, who was speaking at a press conference in Milan ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against Germany, says league officials are mulling it over.

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“I know it will be difficult,” said the former Torino coach. “But you have to change things by 360 degrees or you’ll go forward in dribs and drabs. In order to achieve great things you have to create the prerequisites.”

The league campaign in France and England started on Aug. 13 this year, while the Spanish season got underway the following week, on the same day as the Italian one.

The German Bundesliga started a week after that.