The Italian National Team are facing elimination from next year’s World Cup after losing 1-0 to Sweden in a World Cup qualifying play-off match on Nov. 10.
Sweden overpowered and dominated against the Italians, as Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen only made two saves during the game. Now Italy is in a very tricky spot now if they don’t defeat Sweden in the second leg, the team will miss out on a first World Cup since 1958. If Italy doesn’t qualify, goalkeeper and Italian team legend Gianluigi Buffon will miss out on his record sixth World Cup appearance.
Sweden won the first leg of the match at the Friends Arena, with the only goal coming from defensive midfielder Jakob Johannson, who drilled a shot past Italy keeper Buffon after it deflected off of Italy defender Daniele De Rossi.
Sweden was the better team in the first-half, even though Italy improved a little bit in the second half, they couldn’t break through Sweden’s defense. The Swedish played with a high energy and tempo, making the attacks aggressive. Swedish striker Marcus Berg was booked within 50 seconds of the game starting, showing the team’s animosity.
The animosity was heightened when Swedish defender Ola Toivonen appeared to elbow Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci in the face, fracturing his nose. Italy go into the second leg without central midfielder Marco Verratti after he picked up a second yellow card after a challenge on Marcus Berg, leaving him suspended.
This match was very significant for keeper Gianluigi Buffon, as he is set to retire at the end of the 2017-2018 season. So if Italy fail to beat Sweden at the San Siro stadium in the second leg, it could be the italian legend’s last match in between the posts for the Azzurri after 20 years. If the Azzurri defeat Sweden in the second leg, Buffon will appear at his sixth World Cup, a personal record. Buffon was reported saying: “It’s happened so many times in my career that I’ve been in front of important crossroads. It doesn’t change anything concerning my future, what would change is that a win, more than meaning I would continue in the national shirt, would mean so much for all of us and for the footballing movement.” (nbcsports.com)
Sweden look to ruin the Italian’s dreams though as the team looks to avenge the loss to Italy in Euro 2016 and qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 2006.
Buffon remains as the only player from Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning squad and looks to make his legacy for Italian football something that should never be forgotten.
For football fans, a World Cup without Italy and Buffon would be disgraceful. Italy fans and non Italy fans alike can all appreciate the spectacular moments that Buffon has graced the beautiful game with. As a fan of football and Buffon, I’m hoping that Italy can bounce back at home to defeat Sweden and qualify for next year’s World Cup, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to see the Italian legend between the sticks on the international stage just one last time.
Luke Stergiou can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org