Italy are facing the prospect of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958 should they fail to overcome Sweden in their crunch play-off game on Monday evening at AC Milan’s San Siro.
Giampiero Ventura’s side failed to inspire in the 1-0 defeat to Sweden despite an improved second half performance in Stockholm and will be needing a victory to book their place in Russia 2018. As for Sweden, they know that an away goal in Milan will mean that the Italians will have to score three if they have hopes to progress.
The Swedes started the match at the Friends Arena on the front foot, buoyed by the sold out crowd. Janne Andersson’s side enjoyed the majority of the chances in the first half, with attackers Ola Toivonen and Emil Forsberg coming close with long distance efforts. On the hour mark, Sweden took the lead after substitute Jakob Johansson’s deflected shot wrong footed Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon. Italy pushed hard to get back into the tie, and perhaps should have equalized had Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian’s effort not hit the post.
Monday’s game at the San Siro could be Italian captain Gianluigi Buffon’s last competitive game should Italy fail to progress. The Juventus keeper recently confirmed that he will retire at the end of the season, with a potential record fifth appearance at the World Cup being his last ever tournament as a player.
One key Italian player who will be missing for Ventura’s side will be midfielder Marco Veratti. The Paris St-Germain man who is suspended after picking up a needless yellow card after a mistimed tackle on Swedish striker Marcus Berg. Napoli midfielder Lorenzo Insigne is likely to start in his place.
Ventura’s side needs goals and could turn to striker Simone Zaza to lead the line. The Valencia attacker missed out on a match in Sweden with a knee injury and is facing a late fitness test for the match.
As for Sweden, Janne Andersson has a fully fit squad to choose from and will likely opt for the same starting lineup.RB Leipzig man Emil Forsberg is set to start on the right wing, and could play a key role for the Swedes who will be looking to reach the World Cup for the first time since 2006.