‘Anx­ious’ Italy over­come nerves to record sec­ond straight vic­tory

The Herald - Herald Sport - - EURO 2016 -

EMANUELE GIACCHERINI in­sisted Italy’s dra­matic 1-0 de­feat of Swe­den in Toulouse proved they have the men­tal strength to win Euro 2016.

An­to­nio Conte’s squad had been crit­i­cised for be­ing among the worst na­tional teams in Italy’s his­tory in the build-up to Euro 2016, but they have al­ready pro­gressed to the knock­out stages af­ter Eder’s 88th-minute fin­ish se­cured their sec­ond straight win.

Group E lead­ers Italy next face the Repub­lic of Ire­land in their fi­nal group fix­ture on Wed­nes­day, when third­placed Swe­den meet Bel­gium. Ire­land and fourth-placed Bel­gium play to­day.

“This Italy side proved it has co­jones,” said Giaccherini, who scored in their im­pres­sive 2-0 de­feat of Bel­gium.

“[This] game was far more dif­fi­cult com­pared to Bel­gium as we knew Swe­den would sit deep and refuse to give us any spa­ces.

“They made it hard for us to find width, too. We felt rather ner­vous and anx­ious in the first half as we felt the pres­sure of the oc­ca­sion but we did much bet­ter as time wore on and de­served the vic­tory.”

Eder’s goal came af­ter a classy run through Swe­den’s de­fence, and he spoke of the sat­is­fac­tion he has taken from Italy’s team spirit.

“It was a joy­ful mo­ment. [Fel­low for­wards Lorenzo] In­signe and [Ciro] Im­mo­bile didn’t play, but they came on to hug me at the end and that shows our close­ness”, he said.

“I ded­i­cate this goal to the whole group, ev­ery­body who has worked with us this last year and a half and been here from May 18, be­cause we’ve pre­pared well, so I ded­i­cate this goal to the whole group.”

Swe­den, whose per­for­mance was su­pe­rior to that in the 1-1 draw with Ire­land, are on the brink of elim­i­na­tion and must de­feat Bel­gium next week to stand any chance of pro­gress­ing.

“We had the chance with Zla­tan [Ibrahi­movic], but we didn’t cre­ate enough dif­fi­cul­ties in the end,” said coach Erik Ham­ren. “They worked hard, but we didn’t do enough for a draw.”

LAST GASP: Eder and Gi­ac­cherinni

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