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World Cup 2018

Sweden-Italy live online: World Cup 2018 qualifier, first leg

Don't miss a minute of Sweden vs Italy live online, in the World Cup qualifier first leg. Preview, build-up, live coverage and live score. Kick off 20:45 CET with AS English
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Sweden-Italy live online: World Cup 2018 qualifier, first leg
Catherine IvillGetty Images

Italy face the very real prospect of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958 after Sweden - who reached the final that year on home soil - invoked a similar figthing spirit to defeat the Azzurri by a single goal in the Friends Arena in Solna. 

Gian Piero Ventura's side failed to create many clear-cut chances against a well-orginised Sweden, who were more than content to let Italy have possession of the ball after quickly noting that the visitors had left their attacking ideas in the dressing room. Andrea Belotti missed a golden opportunity to put his side ahead early in the first half but sent his header just wide of Robin Olsen's upright.

Mateo Darmian later rattled a post with a cracking drive from distance but by then Sweden had taken the lead through substitute Jakob Johansson, whose deflected drive wrong-footed Gianluigi Buffon. It was a deserved lead for the home side, who had showed more invention and willingness to run for the cause than Ventura's unadventurous Italy.

One Italy shot on goal tells its own story and Ventura will face an uncomfortable press conference on Sunday before he attempts to turn the tie around in the San Siro a day later. 

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KAI PFAFFENBACHREUTERS

Sweden vs Italy live online: as it happened

Sweden vs Italy live online: match preview

The Swedes and the Italians have long had a mutual respect for each other on the field, stretching back to when Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm formed the feared "Gre-No-Li" trio at AC Milan in the 1950s. The more recent success of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Serie A rekindled that bond, but Sweden's record goal-scorer quit the national team after last year's European Championship in France. Tonight's clash is arguably the tastiest of the playoff dishes.

Sweden team news

Sweden come into this game with a decent home record against the Italians. In their last eight meetings in Sweden, the hosts have lost just once, winning four of them. And things have changed considerably over more recent times with manager Jan Andersson fashioning his side into a compact, capable team that has finally stepped out of the shadow of Ibrahimovic, arguably Sweden's greatest-ever player and the rock on which previous sides were invariably built.

They were solid in defence at home in qualifying, beating France and drawing with the Dutch to sneak into second place on goal difference and nab a playoff spot.

"We feel really strong as a team, we've done it well so far, and we are totally at home here at Friends," Andersson said.

"We've played well so far, played good football. I hope we can do that tomorrow also, then we get the result and we will see what result we will bring with us down to Italy on Monday," he added.

Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen are expected to lead the front line - not exactly the fear driver of the previous Larsson-Ibrahimovic attack - and will be supoorted by the talented Emil Forsberg who has shone for Bundesliga surprise package, RB Leipzig.

Italy team news

For football giants Italy the next few days could be a nightmare as they face a double-headed playoff against Sweden to avoid the humiliation of missing the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.

"A World Cup without Italy isn't a World Cup" has become the catchphrase of many Italians -- four-time world champions -- who are perplexed at how the once-mighty Azzurri have fallen so low. The last time Italy missed the World Cup was the 1958 edition which was hosted in Sweden.

"I don't even consider the idea of not qualifying. We'll go to Russia for sure," insisted coach Gian Piero Ventura, who took over from Antonio Conte after the 2016 European Championship. "We're Italy and missing out on the World Cup is not an option," added experienced centre-back Leonardo Bonucci.

Italy arrived in Sweden for the first game of their two-legged World Cup playoff against Sweden with doubts about the fitness of Valenica's hottest striker Simone Zaza, who has knee injury which is likely to keep him out of Friday's match.

Zaza suffered the flare-up of an old injury during training before the Italian squad departed for Stockholm.

"We'll see how it goes. Zaza has a little problem, if he can't play tomorrow he can play on Monday," Italy manager Gian Piero Ventura told a news conference at the Friends Arena on Thursday.

Flanked by team captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Ventura seemed unperturbed by the injury to his striker.

"Obviously this is a very exciting game, one of the most important (in my career), or at least half of the most important, as it is two games that can take us to the World Cup," he said. "The Swedish players take more responsibility now. Previously a lot of the play went through Ibrahimovic, he drew everything to himself, but now the other players have a more free role," Buffon added.

Sweden vs Italy live online: betting odds

Despite being the away team, Italy arrive as favourites to take a lead back home and this means you can back the Swedes at almost 3/1 to win on the night. Our office tipster sees thinks the game has 0-0 written all over it and if you agree you'll be looking at odds of 11/2. Tempted?

Check out all the odds and bet on Sweden vs Italy

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