Matchday 2 In group E as leaders Italy take on Sweden who look for their first win of Euro 2016!
Italy XI: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Florenzi, Candreva, Parolo, De Rossi, Giaccherini; Eder, Pellè.
Sweden XI: Isaksson; Johansson, Lindelöf, Granqvist, Olsson; Larsson, Ekdal, Källström, Forsberg; Guidetti, Ibrahimović.
This was a match full of tension for both nations as a win for Italy meant qualification to the knockout stages and anything but a win for Sweden meant they would be in deep trouble of exiting the tournament early on. You could sense that this was on the minds of both teams as in the opening half it was a very cagey affair; there were very few chances, misplaced passes across the park and it also had a very slow tempo to it. Each side seemed to have the circumstances of a win on their minds, as neither team could break each other down and neither side looked as though they wanted to push for that opening goal.
The first real chance of the game came to Sweden, around the 20-minute mark, as the ball was crossed into the box and there waiting was Ibrahimovic; someone you would expect to be clinical in this type of situation. Unfortunately, for the Swedes the header was poor and went well wide of the post, despite the cross showing some sort bravery from the Swedish attack. From that sequence of play, Sweden looked a little braver and decided to push out a little more, which unsurprisingly led to another chance being created. This time, it was from Manchester City striker John Guidetti. The ball was lofted over for it to be chested down to him about 20 yards from goal, but unfortunately, he caught it on the half-volley not how he had hoped and it sailed over the crossbar.
The second half began just as the first ended, but this time it was Italy who had the first attempt, as the ball was played to striker Eder who then cut it back and played to it to Graziano Pellé on the edge of the box only for him to strike the ball with power well over the bar!
It took until the 63rd minute for another real chance to be created and again it came from Italy. It started as Florenzi collected the ball on the left-hand side, he managed to beat his man and find space for the cross. It evaded everybody in the box and reached the back post where Antonio Candreva was waiting; the Italian winger hit the ball first time across the box but Isaksson was quick to react and the Sweden goalkeeper collected firmly.
Another great chance finally fell for Sweden, and again for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as the ball was curled into the back post by full back Marcus Olsson. Everyone in a yellow and blue shirt missed the ball, apart from the man himself, and despite being offside he managed to get a firm strike on the ball from about 2 yards out only for it to shoot over the bar.
The game was as you expect full of tension but that wasn’t shown by Italy as in the 82nd minute, Giaccherini delivered an inswinging ball to the back post where midfielder Marco Parolo was waiting unmarked. You would have had the Italian down to score and give his nation the lead, but unfortunately for him it hit the crossbar and deflected over!
It was a game of few chances but it took until the 88th minute for the first goal, as Italian striker Éder grabbed the ball and ran through about four Swedish defenders all alone, he then glided into the box and smashed it into the back of the net for his very first international goal!
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of games but Éder certainly produced the goods as he was the hero of the day. His goal means that Italy are the second nation to reach the Round of 16 and the pressure is all on Sweden’s shoulders!