Chiellini the latest Italy injury ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Italy's Giorgio Chiellini, left, and Belgium's Romelu Lukaku challenge for the ball during the Euro 2020 soccer championship quarterfinal match between Belgium and Italy at the Allianz Arena stadium in Munich, Germany, Friday, July 2, 2021. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

FLORENCE, Italy -- Italy's injury problems continued to pile up as captain Giorgio Chiellini became the latest player to withdraw from the squad on Wednesday ahead of its final World Cup qualifiers.

Chiellini pulled out of the warmup prior to Juventus' match against Fiorentina at the weekend and the veteran defender has not recovered in time.

Italy forward Ciro Immobile and midfielders Nicol? Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini pulled out of the squad earlier this week.

The good news for Italy coach Roberto Mancini is that midfielder Nicol? Barella trained on Wednesday, having undergone treatment the previous day.

Italy plays Switzerland in Rome on Friday. The two teams have 14 points each atop Group C with the European champion having the tiebreaker advantage on goal difference of two better.

Only the first-place finisher gets a direct spot into next year's finals in Qatar. The second-place team goes into the playoffs in March, needing to advance past two opponents to reach the World Cup.

Switzerland also has injury problems. It was already without captain Granit Xhaka and forward Haris Seferovic due to long-term injuries and winger Steven Zuber on Monday became the fourth player to drop out from the squad selected last week.

After Switzerland, Italy plays Northern Ireland in Belfast next Monday. The Swiss finish by hosting Bulgaria.

Italy beat Switzerland 3-0 in Rome in the group phase of Euro 2020. The teams drew 0-0 in Basel in September in World Cup qualifying.

Italy's world record 37-match unbeaten run ended last month with a 2-1 loss to Spain in a Nations League semifinal.

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