Sweden took the first leg of the World Cup play-off. At the Friends Arena in Solna with 50,000 fans in attendance, a Johansson shot deflected by De Rossi gave Sweden the win and the Azzurri will now have to overturn the result on Monday in the return leg in Milan. Fortune wasn’t on Italy’s side as Sweden scored from one of their few shots as it was deflected and the post then denied a great Darmian strike from distance with Olsen beaten.
In order to take on Sweden’s usual 4-4-2 formation, Ventura opted for a back three consisting of Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini. Parolo was there to support Verratti and De Rossi in the middle with Candreva and Darmian on the flanks. In front, Belotti and Immobile were the strike partnership on their ninth appearance together from the start of the Ventura era with the Torino forward back after the injury which had forced him out of the last two matches with FYR Macedonia and Albania.
The match was lively from the start as a free kick from Forsberg in the fourth minute went over. Italy went close to going ahead two minutes later as Darmian crossed the ball from the left wing, Belotti leaped highest and headed just wide of Olsen’s goal. There was a high tempo to the game as Sweden looked to press high and stop the Azzurri’s build-up play and a shot to the far post went wide of Buffon’s goal. Italy looked to make ground with the ball at feet while Sweden often relied on balls in the air as they looked for Toivonen at 1.90 metres tall. Forsberg was their most technically gifted player and he made himself dangerous in the 25th minute with a right-foot effort that missed the target. Verratti then got a booking which will see him miss the second leg. In the 38th minute, Berg got to the ball ahead of Chiellini and Buffon came out well at his feet to clear the danger as the first half came to a close.
Ventura highlighted ahead of the match how important it would be to score at the Friends Arena to build on for the return leg and the Azzurri started the second half keen of finding that coveted away goal. Italy especially attacked on the right-hand side with Candreva, who first delivered a dangerous cross and then forced a save from Olsen with a right-foot effort from the edge of the box. Berg, who already had picked up a yellow card, was twice at risk of being sent off after pushing Chiellini towards Buffon and for elbowing De Rossi. The shock came for Italy in the 61st minute with Sweden taking the lead through a shot from Johansson who found the net after an unfortunate deflection from De Rossi.
Eder came on for Belotti in the 70th minute and soon after, the Azzurri went close to finding the equaliser with a great shot from Darmian that hit the post. Ventura then decided to send Insigne on with 15 minutes, switching to a 4-2-4 formation. On the other side, Sweden remained in their half of the pitch to defend their 1-0 lead. The second leg is for Monday in Milan and a win will be needed to book a ticket for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Saturday 11th November
10:45 Transfer to Stockholm airport
11.45 Flight to Milan Malpensa
14:40 Land at Milan Malpensa and transfer to Suning Centre in Appiano Gentile
16:00 Training (closed to press)
Sunday 12th November
13:45 Press conference MD-1 (Coach and one player)**
15:00 Training MD-1 (First 15 minutes open to press.)**
Monday 13th November
20:45 Sweden vs. Italy
Media Activities to follow
** Reserved to media with accreditation for Italy vs. Sweden. The FIGC will limit access to the press conference room according to the number of places available.