Eder found his second wind as he scores in the 88th minute to put Italy through to the quarter finals. He was able to burst through the Swedish back line after a layoff by Simone Zaza. This puts the Azzurri in pole position of group E.
Azzurri play it safe and put Ibrahimovic to sleep
We saw Bonucci, Chiellini, Barzagli and co. keep Zlatan, Swedens biggest offensive threat, at bay. Sweden was held to 0 shots on goal, with their only real chance coming in the dying seconds of the game where Granqvist looked for a penalty.
Defense continues to be Italy’s strongest feature. The win against Sweden was another brilliant display, making it look easy (see Wales’ attempt vs. England for more information). Buffon had nothing to worry about all game long, even with Zlatan prowling, looking to break the Italian hearts like he did back in 2004, helping to eliminate Italy in the group stage of the tournament.
The first half of the game, nothing happened. Italy played a safe game, trying not to concede and avoided playing behind. Sweden came up short of ideas to attack because of the organization of Conte’s defense. Zlatan was found playing deeper than usual, trying to create something but failed to do so and was constantly surrounded by pressure from at least 2 defenders at all times.
After a quiet game, Eder was able to finally make a last gasp push for goal to take the win.
Candreva’s wing play and lack of influence from strikers
Once again, we see that Italy’s primary attacking option is Antonio Candreva. His service was put in the same spot all game long, near post dropping around the 6 yard box. None of the strikers were able to make a dangerous near post run to create an opportunity. He is allowed space to counter at least once per game on top of all the crosses he’s provided.
The Pelle-Eder combination has worked sparingly. They haven’t been able to take the game by the balls and finish their chances. Pelle had a quiet game with one shot off target on an awkward bouncing shot and didn’t have the necessary influence when the team was actually able to create opportunities. Possession was lost far too often with poor touches and decision making between the three strikers that played. Even Zaza, who subbed on for Pelle had very little to offer other than his layoff for Eder’s goal.
Quarter finals and beyond?
We haven’t seen an Italian team with this much organization, composure and focus in the past years. 2 big wins against strong sides, Belgium and Sweden allow them a spot in the quarter finals. If they can keep it up in the later stages and continue to find scoring opportunities and finish their chances like they’ve done, they will make it far into the Euro’s. Conte has done a magnificent job this far and I don’t think this Italy side will disappoint us.