Italy, a four-time champion, dominated possession but struggled to create clear-cut scoring chances as Sweden secured a first appearance at World Cup since 2006 on the strength of Jakob Johansson's first-leg strike in Stockholm. Despite the support of ...
Without its star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who retired from the national team after the 2016 European championship, Sweden had seemed an unlikely bet to return to the world stage after failing to reach the last two editions. But Sweden finish second in its qualifying group, behind France but ahead of the Netherlands, to qualify for the playoff, and then knocked out Italy with a determined defensive effort.
“I’m emotional and very happy,” Sweden Coach Janne Andersson said. “This match showed our collective strength.
“With Ibrahimovic we played differently. He’s retired and he’s a great champion. So we adapted and we play in another way now.”
It was a mediocre performance by Italy, with Antonio Candreva firing over the bar on his team’s best chance and Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen denying Alessandro Florenzi and Ciro Immobile. Mikael Lustig almost scored an own goal when his deflection hit the bar.
Both teams had penalty appeals turned down by the referee, Antonio Mateu Lahoz, but despite peppering Sweden’s box with crosses in the second half, Italy was unable to put the ball in the net. As the clock ticked down, the crowd at the San Siro began to sing the national anthem.
After several late attempts were saved or went wide, Buffon came up for a corner in a final desperate gamble. But Italy fell short, and — like the United States, the Netherlands, Chile, Ghana and other regulars who failed to qualify this year — it now will watch next summer’s tournament in Russia from home.
World Cup (Soccer),2018 World Cup,Italy national soccer team