ROME (AP) — Torino midfielder Tommaso Pobega was called up to Italy’s squad for the first time Friday for decisive World Cup qualifiers against Switzerland and Northern Ireland.
Coach Roberto Mancini named 28 players for the two qualifiers, against Switzerland in Rome on Nov. 12 and vs. Northern Ireland in Belfast Nov. 15.
AC Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali received his first call-up in a year with usual starter Marco Verratti out injured.
Italy and Switzerland each have 14 points atop Group C, with only the first-place finisher getting a direct spot at next year’s tournament in Qatar. The second-place finisher goes into a playoff.
Bulgaria is third in the group with eight points, Northern Ireland has five and Lithuania has three.
Italy beat Switzerland 3-0 in the group phase of the European Championship in June before going on to claim the title. The teams then drew 0-0 in Basel in September.
Center forwards Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti return to the squad from injuries, resulting in Moise Kean being left out.
The 22-year-old Pobega, who is on loan from AC Milan, had been a key member of Italy’s under-21 squad.
Goalkeepers: Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Genoa).
Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter Milan), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Davide Calabria (AC Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Emerson Palmieri (Lyon), Gianluca Mancini (Roma).
Midfieldersi: Nicolò Barella (Inter Milan), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Manuel Locatelli (Juventus), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Tommaso Pobega (Torino), Sandro Tonali (AC Milan), Nicolò Zaniolo (Roma).
Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo).
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The Associated Press