Italy 0-0 Sweden: match report
Draw means Italy won't be at the World Cup for the first time since 1958
The four-time champions dominated possession but struggled to create enough clear-cut chances, as Sweden secured a first appearance at the finals since 2006 courtesy of Jakob Johansson's first-leg strike in Stockholm.
Johansson was subbed in the first half with a knee injury as they lost their goalscorer and there were several yellow cards in an exciting first 45. It was much of the same again in the second half when Sweden pushed all the way back into their penalty area.
Italy had chances and penalty shouts but none of them convinced Spanish referee Mateu Lahoz. They didn't convince fully either as, while Sweden had there backs to the wall, they never broke them down for any clear-cut chances.
Gianluigi Buffon, who said he will retire from club football unless he win the Champions League, is expected to hang up his gloves after 20 years in goals for the Azzurri and the draw, and loss over two legs, brings to an end an incredible run at the World Cup for the four-time winners and two-time runners up of the tournament.
Italy vs Sweden live stream online: as it happened
Italy vs Sweden live online: preview
When the qualifying round draw was made in July 2015, few could have imagined that four-time world champions Italy would end up in their current, precarious situation – just 90 minutes away from being knocked out of a tournament they have missed just once – in 1958. And just to rub it in, they will be facing the country which hosted that edition of the World Cup, Sweden. At least Gian Piero Ventura’s team will be on home turf for this decisive Play-Off – not that that will ease their nerves. Ventura has had to endure his fair share of stick for how his team is playing and sticking with an impractical 3-5-2 system which has only clogged up the midfield and has deprived Belotti and Immobile of service. That was born out in the stats – just one shot on target over the 90 minutes of last week's game. The local media has been trying to drum up support and belief from the public with rallying headlines filled with bravado: La Gazzetta called for San Siro to “Rise and do your thing” while Corriere dello Sport chimed “[We are] Ready for the biggest challenge”.
Sweden want to be in Russia next summer just as much as Italy do and they hold a one-goal advantage from Friday’s first leg in Solna - Jakob Johansson’s deflected shot flat-footing Buffon on the night. The Scandinavians just pipped Holland to the Play-off stage by having a better goal difference. They suffered three defeats in the qualifying round, losing to France, Bulgaria and Holland – all away from home. Janne Andersson’s team will surely play a similar, high tempo, high pressing game like they did at the Friends Arena so that the Italians don’t get a moment to settle. The longer they can do that, the more likely frustration will start to creep into the hosts and the greater their chances of riding out the minutes to cling onto their lead, or even add to it.
Italy team news
Ventura said that he will make changes to the side that lost in Sweden four days ago with Andrea Belotti looking likely to be dropped in favour of Manolo Gabbiadini. Marco Veratti is suspended after picking up a booking in the first leg – Lorenzo Insigne will take his place in midfield. Daniele De Rossi could also step aside and make way for Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi.
Sweden team news
Andersson is in the privileged position of having no injury or suspension worries ahead of the game. He is likely to field the same XI that did exactly what he asked in the first leg. The coach said on the eve of the game: “We shouldn’t be cowards, we must show our value and be daring – not simply try to spend 90 minutes defending the result from the first leg – Italy are far too skillful for us to attempt that. If we are too defensive, you can bet that we’ll be made to suffer”.
Italy v Sweden selected betting live odds:
Despite having a one-goal deficit to turn around, Italy are the bookmakers’ favourites to win and become the penultimate European side to seal their place at next year’s finals. Sweden are priced at 13/2 to win the game and the same odds are being offered for it to end 1-1 on the whistle. It’s 7/1 to end without any goals at all but Marco Parolo is at 14/1 to find a way past Robin Olsen at any point during the game, and Marcus Berg, who bagged six in qualifying, is at 10/1 to net the last goal of the game.