Italy are there for the taking: 5 things we learned as Ireland handed a big Euro 2016 boost
Italy struck late to beat Sweden 1-0 in Toulouse this afternoon, a result which definitely benefits Ireland. Here are five things we learned from the dramatic Group E encounter.
Italy are there for the taking
Much surprise was caused by Italy beating a fancied Belgium in their opener and this late win provided a more accurate assessment of their standing.
The first-half goal which allowed them to sit back against the Belgians didn’t materialise in Toulouse but it was clear from their lack of ambition in the final third they’d gladly have taken a point until the late intervention.
As the Swedes tired, Eder seized the moment three minutes from time to all but secure their passage into the last-16.
Stop Daniele De Rossi and the Italian game-plan can be nullified
The Roma midfielder has taken on even more responsibility since his fellow World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo drifted from the international picture, meaning most of Italy’s passages are funnelled through him in midfield.
Perhaps wary of De Rossi incurring a second yellow card, Antonio Conte substituted his lynchpin with a quarter of hour left and it remains to be seen whether the 32-year-old will be rested for the meeting with Ireland next Wednesday in order to keep him fresh for the knockout stages.
Glenn Whelan’s man-marking mission on Zlatan Ibrahimovic worked a treat for the most part during Ireland’s opener and, assuming De Rossi anchors the Italian engine-room again, Martin O’Neill could opt to delegate another shadowing role to the Stoke City man.
Traditional Italian style may be boring but still effective
How the likes of England and Germany would yearn to have maximum points following the two Euro 2016 games which Italy possess?
This victory was more economical, or arguably agricultural, than their smash-and-grab one over Belgium but it won’t matter a jot in the cities of Milan, Rome and Genoa. Rarely pleasing on the eye, the Azzurri still know how to get over the line and that won’t change against Ireland.
It’s the same concept as 2006 when better teams perished along the way as the Italians lifted the World Cup against the odds.
Ireland should rue failing to put away bog-standard Swedes
Sweden have tried their best to counteract their reputation as being a one-man team but little evidence exists to contend that they are capable of operating without Ibrahimovic.
Even with the Manchester United-bound superstar leading their attack, the Swedes rarely threatened Italy's three-man defence.
That they had no efforts on target during the entire match exposed their weakness, which Ireland should have exploited last Monday by winning rather than drawing against them.
Sweden’s fans will rival Ireland for the best at Euro 2016
The ‘Yellow Wall’, as it is known in their homeland, dominated the Stadium de Toulouse, leaving the Italians very much in the shade when it came to the singing contests.
For a group of fans which get scant goalmouth action from their side, their level of support is admirable.
Ibrahimovic may only have one more chance – Wednesday’s final group game against Belgium – to give them something to cheer about before he heads into the international retirement lounge.