Thursday, 23 November, 2017

Sweden stun Italy to book World Cup return

Sweden and Italy gear up for World Cup playoff clash Italy lose to Sweden in World Cup play-off first leg
Angelica Greene | 14 November, 2017, 00:41

Italy piled on the pressure in the second half in search of the goal that would send the tie to extra-time, with Stephan El Shaarawy's fierce volley forcing a late save from Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen.

Gian Piero Ventura's side headed into Monday evening's playoff second leg against Sweden knowing that they needed to overcome a 1-0 deficit from the first contest.

The Juventus stopper, who is widely considered one of the best goalkeepers ever, has said he will retire from worldwide duty once the current campaign ends.

Italy is a team that can not afford to miss out on the next World Cup while Sweden is trying to prosper after Zlatan Ibrahimovic's retirement from the national team.

Sweden were rated nearly no chance of progressing to the finals, but the 25th-ranked team progressed to the play-off on goal difference, finishing second in their group ahead of the Netherlands and four points behind France.

"We need to be as clear headed as possible to go to the World Cup", said captain Buffon, who conceded a goal by Swedish substitute Jakob Johansson that was deflected by Daniele de Rossi.

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With Sweden's qualification, 29 teams at the World Cup are now confirmed, with the winners of Ireland/Denmark, Australia/Honduras and Peru/New Zealand to be the final three into the tournament, with those games played on Wednesday morning, Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, respectively.

"We can make no mistakes, we are focusing on what we must do to win but if we fail to qualify everybody should take the blame", the 39-year-old Juventus player said at the pre-match press conference.

It could have been worse for Italy, as Sweden was denied what looked like two clear-cut penalties for handballs, first by Matteo Darmian and then Andrea Barzagli.

"We are not stressed, personally I am focused on the game and I hope fans will support us". Sweden hosted the World Cup in 1958, which Italy missed.

"I've already faced similar situations in my career, sometimes I've succeeded, some other times I've failed. It would be a great satisfaction to qualify for the World Cup".

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