Sweden vs Italy by Sweem
Sweden have enjoyed a fantastic group stage considering the new era they have entered, with Ibrahimovic out of the national team. Suddenly, Sweden became a hard working unit and it has resulted in a second place, behind France in a relatively tough group. Italy will have to fight for their place in the World Cup, and enters this double meeting with Sweden with the expectations heavily on their side. The World Cup is not the same without Italy, right?
Firstly, we have two teams with a strong identity, and in fact they are very similar in terms of what type of football they preach. Safety first, play on the result, minimize risks, keep the second clash alive. Those are some key words for this match from two disciplined and organized teams. On beforehand, it can feel like a chess game more than an actual football match.
The truth is that a draw would be an accetable outcome for both teams. Sweden would take anything but a loss, and still be able to travel to Italy with hopes to clinch an away goal. Italy would also take a draw, as they appear confident to solve it at home. In other words, 0-0 or 1-1 is not game over for either side. Sweden entered the World Cup qualifiers with Janne Andersson as the new head coach, as the previous coach, Erik Hamren did no longer meet the expectations of the domestic football association. Under Anderssons gudiance, Sweden have fared very well, except for one devastating performance away in Bulgaria.
At home, they have looked dangerous, solid, offensive and creative - mostly from Bundesliga star, Emil Forsberg who provided the most assists in Bundesliga last season. At Friends Arena, Sweden went 4-1-0 and 18-2 in goal difference. Only 2 goals conceded in five home matches, with France and Netherlands is a great achievement. Slowly, even the Swedes have started to really believe in this "new" national team.
Up front, the Swedes have received consistent production from the former Greek league top scorer, Marcus Berg with 8 goals (5th best in Europe).
Italy finished five points behind Spain in a dominant group by the two giants. The Italians played well on the road with their 4-0-1 record, only losing to Spain. They have a ton of quality in the team and perhaps the most dangerous striker in world football at the moment, in Ciro Immobile. He has been dealing with fitness issues lately but is selected in the squad for Giampiero Venturas side.
Traditonally these teams have played very close matches, often one goal difference encounters, and generally not any goal galores. If you want to see goals, this is the wrong game to watch. I am very well aware that playing a straight draw is not fancied by the general public, who always feel the need to pick one side, because what is the point to sit and hope for a draw where nobody wins? Keep in mind - This is a game with huge importance, and a game where safety first is the main rule, between two defensively organized teams. Limit the mistakes and keep a clean sheet is in the mind of both teams - I really feel for the draw, and that will get a medium stake from me.