Over 15 million people are projected to watch Italy vs Sweden on TV tonight in the penultimate playoff clash for qualification to the FIFA World Cup.
There’s a lot at stake tonight for the federation, the coaches and players, it could be the end for many of them. Will this be the last time we see Buffon with the national team? In the case of defeat or failure to qualify, most likely it will be.
Sweden came flying into Friday’s opener both literally and metaphorically. Leonardo Bonucci will be wearing a protective mask due to a fractured nose after a collision in the 2nd minute with Marcus Berg. Tonight will be no different.
One of the world’s biggest and most decorated football nations is on the brink of missing out on the greatest stage. Perhaps fittingly, the crown delusion after two disastrous World Cup campaigns already this decade.
The failure to produce world-class talent, primarily strikers, glares like a firework in the night sky. Reforms will need to be introduced after tonight, win, lose or draw. Italy will have to plot a new course with new personnel and perhaps an entirely new system. Germany and Spain represent fruit-bearing models, but Italy has always taken its own path.
For the clash with Sweden, Ventura has seemingly gone all-out. Max power. The two previous equivalents of this type of match were against Slovakia in 2010 and Uruguay in 2014. Both were crushing defeats for the Azzurri.
Tonight may be different. 82,000 fans packed into the San Siro which has been a tried and trusted hunting ground for the Italian national team for over a century.
In competitive matches dating back to the 1950s, Italy’s record against Sweden is 5W-2D-5L. The balance will be tipped tonight in favor of one nation or another
Italy’s Projected Starting XI
Gabbiadini has played in three qualifiers this campaign, scoring a lone goal, while Jorginho will make his debut for the Azzurri in a competitive match.
Florenzi returns to the fold after a long injury absence due to ACL tears, while the rest of the lineup remains unchanged from Friday’s 1-0 defeat.
Kickoff is at 8:45 CET, 2:45PM EST.