The most anticipated race for a place in the repechage for the 2018 World Cup in Russia will open this Friday, November 10. From 17:45 (GMT), at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden welcomes Italy.
The match is set in two games. The second will be on Italian soil on the 13th. Points earned, goalscoring and goals scored outside the home are the criteria to indicate who will be eligible to play in the Russian World Cup.
Sweden’s recent performance
The Swedes have a great world tradition. They have played 11 editions and won a runner-up. He reached the final in 1958, when he hosted the tournament, losing the title to Brazil of Pele and Garrincha.
Despite this record, the elimination already in the group stage was the expected result of the selection of Sweden. Three factors motivated this low expectation in relation to the team. The first of these was the weak campaign in Euro 2016. Before starting their campaign in the qualifiers of the Old Continent, the Swedes were still beaten in the first phase of the competition that had France as the seat of their decisive stage.
The second reason was also generated by this bad campaign. Disappointed by the poor results, the all-time Swedish player of all time, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has decided to retire from the national team.
In addition, the negative prognoses were completed by the draw that put Sweden in a key that had as wide favorites France and Holland. The French confirmed what was expected and were left with the direct spot in the Russian Cup by reaching 23 points (seven wins, two draws and a loss).
The Sweden team managed to play in first place in most of the ten rounds but lost their breath. With 19 points (six wins, one draw and three defeats), he ended up guaranteeing the right to play in the play-off thanks to the better goal scoring than the Dutch, who reached the same score. An 8-0 win against Luxembourg on Matchday 9 was the decisive factor for that feat.
Although the luck factor also did not help in defining the repechage clashes, the Swedes’ surprising campaign in the qualifiers made the team lose the ‘ugly duckling’ label and be seen as a rival capable of outclassing the Italians.
For the first game of the duel, Sweden will not be able to count on the defender Mikael Lustig, of Celtic (Scotland). He will have to fulfill suspension by the accumulation of yellow cards and will only be released for the confrontation of Italy.
For the games the following athletes were called:
Goalkeepers: Johnsson, Nordfeldt, Olsen
Defenders: Augustinsson, Granqvist, Helander, Jansson, Krafht, Larsson, Lustig, Lindelof, Olsson
Socks: Claesson, Durmat, Ekdal, Forsberg, Johansson, Larsson, Rohden, Sema, Svensson
Attackers: Berg, Guidetti, Toivonen, Thelin
The current form of Italy
The presence of the four-time Italy champion in the play-off can not be considered a surprise. Azzurra has undergone a severe change in its tactical scheme in recent years. For the 2014 World Cup, played in Brazil, he had the services of coach Antonio Conte, currently at Chelsea. With it, he switched to the style based on the ‘double’ boom / counterattack by a more offensive football in which possession of the ball was prioritized.
The elimination in the first phase of the World Cup on Brazilian soil undermined the deepening of this strategy, which had its end point with the fall in the stages of Euro 2016. With the hiring of Gian Piero Ventura, the Italians took a step back using the a system traditionally used by local football, although it is no longer a resource used by major clubs in the country. Napoli, Juventus, Rome and Lazio, for example, opt for the line that was followed by Conte.
This certainly caused extra complications, but the biggest obstacle to Italy’s classification was even the draw, which put the team in the same group as Spain. In the battle of giants, the Spanish touch had prevailed and the Italians, with 23 points (seven wins, two draws and one defeat), five less than the rival, had to be content with the second place of group G of the European qualifiers .
For the duel against the Swedes, Ventura promoted surprises in the call. For the first time in his administration he called striker Simone Zaza, who had been ‘banned’ since the wasted penalty against Germany in Euro 2016 that caused the Italian elimination of the tournament. The 11 goals that the player scored in favor of Valencia, Spain, at the beginning of the 2017/2018 season certainly weighed in their favor.
Who appeared for the first time in the call was Brazilian midfielder Jorginho. The athlete from Napoli joined athletes like Daniele de Rossi, Marco Verratti and Andrea Belotti, who due to the injuries were out of the previous call.
The calls were: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa); Leonardo DiCaprio (Fiorentina), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United), Daniele Rugani ), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea); Fernando Bernadeschi (Juventus), Antonio Candreva (Inter), Daniele de Rossi (Roma), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Roberto Gagliardini (Inter), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Jorginho Parolo (Lazio), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain); Andrea Belotti (Torino), Eder (Inter), Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton), Ciro Immobile (Lazio) and Simone Zaza (Valencia).
History of the matches Sweden vs Italy
The Italian side won 10 of their 22 matches against the Swedes before qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The first official meeting between the teams was in Brazil at the 1950 World Cup. Sweden won by 3 to 2. They met again at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. This time, Italy took the best doing 1 to 0. It would reach the final of the tournament when it lost the title to the Brazilian team.
In the 1972 Euro, the selections were in the same group of the eliminatory ones. There was a goalless draw in Sweden and Italian victory, at home, by 3 to 0. Again in the dispute of vacancies of the continental tournament their paths were crossed. For the Euro 1984 qualifiers, the Swedes won twice. They made it 2-0 at home and 3-0 in the opponent’s stadium.
The duel was repeated in the qualifiers for the Euro 1988. In that opportunity who at home won. The Swedes by 1 to 0 and the Italians by 2 to 1. Also in the Euro, but not in the qualifiers but in the final phase, the teams have had three more meetings since then. In 2000, Italy won by 2-1. In 2004, there was a 1-1 draw. The most recent match was for Euro 2016. In France, the Italians scored 1-0.
Conservatism is the basis of the tactical system of the two teams. With the Italians visiting and the Swedes fearing the tie-break for the away goal, the draw is the best betting option with a 3.10 rating on Bet365. Success of constituents yields 3.50 and visitors pay 2.37.