Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Italy face crunch Sweden game as World Cup disaster beckons

Roy Hodgson is planning a swoop for Sweden's match-winner Jakob Johannson Roy Hodgson is planning a swoop for Sweden's match-winner Jakob Johannson
Spencer Simpson | 14 November, 2017, 00:40

The makeup of next year's World Cup finals may have looked a lot different had Federation Internationale de Football Association been bold enough to implement the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system for the qualifiers for Russia 2018. "We just had to sit there and hope that we could hang on", said Sweden coach Jan Andersson.

The United States would nearly certainly have made it, with Panama's "ghost" goal against Costa Rica guaranteed to have been ruled out by VAR, while Northern Ireland rightfully feel aggrieved that they lost their playoff to Switzerland courtesy of a penalty awarded for a handball that never was in the playoff first leg in Belfast.

It would be easy to lay the blame squarely on Gian Piero Ventura.

"We analyzed the things that went well and others that did not go so well". I don't want to think it's the game of life but I'm convinced that, with the help of the fans, we will do it.

Marco Verratti is suspended for Monday's game with Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci wearing a protective mask after breaking his nose in a bruising first leg against Sweden in Stockholm.

It was always going to be hard for Italy to get their own way in the Swedish capital, but with a wealth of striking options, one of the stingiest defences in Europe and arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in Gianluigi Buffon, much more was expected from this return clash.

This is the first time since the 1958 edition held in Sweden that Italy have failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.

"Not for me, but for the football movement, because we failed at something that could've been truly important for the country".

Alessandro Florenzi tried an audacious volley that went a foot wide of Olsen's post, while Immobile came close at the near post but, ultimately, the Azzurri found no solutions to get back into the tie, and will miss out on the world finals for the first time in 60 years.

Away goals count double after 90 minutes.

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