Veteran De Rossi chases one final World Cup fling
No one in the Italy squad can imagine failing to qualify for the World Cup, not least Daniele De Rossi as he targets his fourth appearance at the summer finals.
The 34-year-old Roma midfielder is one of only two players in the Azzurri selection who will travel to Stockholm to face Sweden today having already earned more than 100 caps.
De Rossi will pass the recently-retired Andrea Pirlo in the all-time appearances list should he earn his 117th cap in the Swedish capital, but Gianluigi Buffon's haul of 173 remains well out of reach.
The veteran Juventus goalkeeper will not want to sign off on an illustrious career with his national team following defeat to Sweden over two legs, and neither will De Rossi.
"It would be great to be able to play at my fourth World Cup," he said.
"It's a tournament that no one wants to miss. We are expecting two games in which we cannot afford to make mistakes.
"The stakes are so high that the idea of shedding blood and sweat is appropriate. We must give everything right to the finish.
"We will have to play cleverly in both matches - we do not lack quality but we must mix it with experience."
Italy - the world champions in 2006 - last missed out on the summer finals in 1958.
Threatening to condemn the Azzurri to the same fate they suffered 60 years ago are Sweden, who finished second in their qualifying group, behind France but ahead of Holland.
The Italians got a taste of how tenacious the Scandinavians can be when they squeezed past them 1-0 in a group game at Euro 2016, and now De Rossi can take comfort from the fact one of the danger men from that encounter is no longer available to Sweden boss Janne Andersson.
On Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who retired from international duty last year, De Rossi said: "I never want to play against him again, not even if he was 40 with a broken leg."
There are doubts over Italy's starting line-up at the Friends Arena as head coach Giampiero Ventura has seen his striking options dwindle over the last few days.
Lazio hotshot Ciro Immobile and Torino's Andrea Belotti are not fully fit and on Thursday Simone Zaza of Valencia limped out of training after exacerbating a pre-existing knee injury. He will travel, though.
- Sweden v Italy, live, Sky Sports, 7.45