Italy vs Sweden: World Cup 2018 Qualifier Play-Off (Second Leg Preview)

Tonight sees the second leg of the World Cup Play-Off match between Italy and Sweden, after the first leg finished 1-0 to Sweden, with the Swedes putting in a spirited and well organised performance, and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic watching from the stands, albeit, he’s injured and has since retired from International level football after the European Championships in 2016.

Yes, Italy and Gianluigi Buffon were unable to stop the deflected shot by substitute Jakob Johansson in the 61st minute, setting Sweden up into pole position with a one goal advantage before the return match tonight at the San Siro in Milan. The Italians are now understandably nervous and could be about to miss out on their first World Cup tournament since 1958, which ironically took place in Sweden.

The Italians played a lacklustre game on Friday, and they paid for it, with Sweden’s Emil Forsberg of RB Leipzig turning in a Man of the Match performance for the Swedes. You can watch the full highlights of the first Sweden VS Italy match, right here!

Jakob Johansson celebrates his goal against Italy. Credit: Reuters

So, what to make of tonight’s match-up? Italy are on home turf, but their qualifying campaign has been less than straight forward, and their manager, Giampero Ventura, has received huge criticism in both his mentality, and his chosen tactics in leading the Azzuri through a rather dismal qualifying campaign. During which they struggled to beat any of their mediocre opponents such as Albania, Liechtenstein, Israel or FYR Macedonia, convincingly in any match towards the latter part of qualification. Italy’s goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, who will pull the curtains on his playing career after the World Cup, has called for the Italian fans to get behind the team tonight as they try to avoid getting axed from next year’s World Cup altogether. That would mean an early retirement for Buffon, and all that Sweden really need tonight is just one goal, which would go someway to sink the Italians to their fate.

Sports journalist, Luigi Garlando, opened with the following statement in the editorial of the Gazzetta dello Sport: “The Apocalypse is getting closer, and The Kremlin has never seemed further away.”

Ventura seeks advice of Buffon ahead of his press conference as the pressure mounts. Credit: EPA

No doubt Luigi Garlando saw the 3-5-2 formation, and the sluggish, boring display by Italy to be very worrying, whilst the Swedes played without fear, taking the game to the Italians and in our opinion, that’s just what Sweden need to do tonight. Sweden lined up in a classic 4-4-2 and defended with organisation, but they weren’t afraid to attack on the counter, and with Italy’s aging backline in defence, could the Swedes spring yet more surprises tonight in Milan?

Let’s hope so, since there would definitely be a lot less “diving” and “time wasting” without the Italians in Russia, so that would be a breath of fresh air. Perhaps Italy’s years of playing really boring football, yet getting away with it, is finally catching up with them? After all, Italy are more famous for their defensive approach, lack of goals, and tedious trickery like falling like shot birds in the penalty box at any given opportunity, apart from anything else. Not to mention they love pestering the referee with their hand gestures at every single World Cup when something doesn’t go their way, as if the famous Italian hand gesture would go some way to revert a Ref’s decision.

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Vaffanculo, as they say. Credit: Tenor

The Italian’s risk missing out big time on the financial rewards and additional sponsors for the World Cup, pending the outcome of tonight’s match, meanwhile, Sweden can go out onto the pitch with a one goal advantage, seeking out that crucial away goal to bury the tie and thus send the Italian’s screaming “Mama Mia” all the way back home to their mama’s.

If that’s the case, they will join the Netherlands, the U.S.A and Chile in missing out on the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

Either way, it’s sure to be an entertaining match, and you can watch it live tonight at 19:45pm on your trusted football channel or via an online streaming service.

If Sweden can pull off the miracle and qualify for the World Cup, will Zlatan Ibrahimovic consider coming out of retirement to play in this summers World Cup in Russia, pending a flourishing finish with Manchester United in the Premier League? One can dream, one can dream…

Prediction: Both Teams to Score

Brainstain, over and out!

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Featured Photo Credit: YouTube

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