Italy, the four time FIFA World Cup winner is on verge of sitting out from Russia 2018. They lost 1-0 against Sweden in their play-off first leg played at Friends Arena in Stockholm. Jakob Johansson scored the only goal of the game in late half to give Sweden an advantage going into the second leg at San Siro in Italy.
Italy has never lost their World Cup berth since 1958, and they are facing play-off position for the first time after 1997. That was Gigi Buffon’s senior debut and the second leg of play-off at San Siro on Nov 13 could be his last if Azzuris failed to qualify for the Russia 2018.
The 39-year-old goalkeeper was unlucky in first-leg as Jakob Johansson deflected strike took a touch from Daniel De Rossi and he found his footing on the wrong side of the post. Sweden put an aggressive display from the very first minute as Ola Toivonen and Leonardo Bonucci were in tussle, and Bonucci broke his nose earning Toivonen an yellow.
On both end, there were young strikers in the formation. Emil Forsberg was leading the lineup for Sweden, whereas Andrea Belotti was Italy’s first choice despite not being fully fit. Forsberg strikes a free-kick in the stands for Swedish side and Belotti missed a glorious opportunity for Italy from six yards out.
Matteo Darmian cross inches wide of Robin Olsen’s right hand post for Italy and in the meantime Forsberg curling effort narrowly misses Buffon goal post for Sweden. But, the biggest loss for Italy came as Marco Verratti earned himself an yellow for nudging Marcus Berg, and will have to sit out of second-leg.
Toivonen goal gave Sweden a well-needed lead, but Italy will come strong in second leg in front of their home supporters at San Siro. Marco Parolo, the Lazio midfielder gave a motivated speech after the game as he said Italy will have to play the game of a lifetime.
Footbal Italia reports as Parolo told Rai Sport, “We are determined, want to play the game of a lifetime and are aware we’ve only got one chance left. It was a rough game, decided by a deflection and with us hitting the post. Incidents can go against you on the night, but we have to look ourselves in and do everything possible to take Italy to the World Cup.”