‘APOC­A­LYPSE’ Swe­den stun Italy out of World Cup

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

ITALY failed to qual­ify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years af­ter be­ing held to a 0-0 home draw on Mon­day by a de­fi­ant Swe­den, who booked a place at next year’s fi­nals in Rus­sia with a 1-0 ag­gre­gate win.

Swe­den sur­vived waves of at­tacks in the sec­ond leg of their Euro­pean play­off on a night of un­remit­ting ten­sion and drama at a stunned San Siro where the cheers turned to boos af­ter four-time cham­pi­ons Italy were left to rue their spurned chances.

The Ital­ians, who had not missed the World Cup since the 1958 fi­nals in Swe­den, had 75 per­cent of pos­ses­sion, squan­dered nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties and had penalty ap­peals turned down in their in­creas­ingly des­per­ate search for an equaliser.

The Italy play­ers, who along with their 69-year-old coach Gian Piero Ven­tura, are likely to face long in­quests, col­lapsed onto the pitch in de­spair at the fi­nal whis­tle and even vet­er­ans such as Gior­gio Chiellini were in­con­solable.

The de­feat brought the cur­tain down on the re­mark­able in­ter­na­tional ca­reer of 39-year-old goal­keeper Gian­luigi Buf­fon, who was mak­ing his 175th ap­pear­ance for his coun­try.

Swe­den coach Jan An­der­s­son ad­mit­ted that his side had to cling on against tech­ni­cally su­pe­rior op­po­nents.

“We had no weapons left. We just had to sit there and hope that we could hang on,” he said. “We couldn’t do it in any other way, they are so skil­ful.”

Ven­tura, un­der fire for his team se­lec­tions and tac­tics, made four changes to the team which lost the first leg and brought Jorginho into mid­field for the sus­pended Marco Ver­ratti. It was a huge ask of the Brazil­ian-born player who had not pre­vi­ously played a com­pet­i­tive game for Italy.

Ner­vous and jit­tery, Italy strug­gled to find their feet in a des­per­ately scrappy open­ing 20 min­utes, but be­gan to cre­ate chances down the wings with Matteo Darmian and Antonio Can­dreva.

Can­dreva had the first real chance when Im­mo­bile cut the ball back across the face of goal but he fired over.

The chances be­gan to flow as Jorginho chipped the ball over the Swe­den de­fence to re­lease Ciro Im­mo­bile whose shot was par­tially stopped by Olsen and cleared away by Vic­tor Lin­de­lof as it was about to trickle over the line.

An­dreas Gran­qvist made a su­perb tackle on Manolo Gab­bia­dini as he looked set to score and Olsen then de­nied Alessan­dro Florenzi af­ter he tricked his way past Mikael Lustig.

Italy kept press­ing af­ter half­time but their at­tacks be­came more des­per­ate as the game went on and the re­al­i­sa­tion that they were head­ing for fail­ure clearly weighed on their shoul­ders.

The Ital­ians did not en­ter the first World Cup in 1930 but apart from the 1958 fi­nals they have been ever-present. — Reuters.

Lionel Messi Ser­gio Aguero Ney­mar Paul Pogba Cris­tiano Ron­aldo

Gian Piero Ven­tura Gian­luigi Buf­fon

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