Italy (0) 0-0 (1) Sweden: Meatballers shock Azzurri to reach World Cup Finals

Italy (0) 0-0 (1) Sweden: Meatballers shock Azzurri to reach World Cup Finals

Giampiero Ventura's men miss out on their first major tournament for six decades, as the curtain comes down on Gianluigi Buffon's glittering international career.

Alexander Ford
ItalyBuffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Candreva (Bernardeschi, min. 76), Florenzi, Jorginho, Parolo, Darmian (El Shaarawy, min. 63); Gabbiadini (Belotti, min. 63), Immobile.
SwedenOlsen; Lustig, Lindelof, Granqvist, Augustinsson; Claesson (Rohden, min. 72), Seb Larsson, Johansson (Svensson, min. 19), Forsberg; Berg, Toivonen (Thelin, min. 54).
REFEREEAntonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (ESP) Booked: Chiellini (min. 9), Johansson (min. 10), Barzagli (min. 22), Forsberg (min. 30), Lustig (min. 66), Thelin (min. 69), Bernardeschi (min. 92), Immobile (min. 92), Olsen (min. 94)
INCIDENTSWorld Cup 2018 Playoff Second Leg Tie between Italy and Sweden at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium (San Siro) in Milan.

Sweden shocked the Four-time World Cup winners Italy, as Janne Andersson's men hold the hosts to goalless draw in Milan, winning the two-legged playoff tie by a single goal to book their place in Russia

Whilst the Swedes reach their first World Cup finals in 12 years, defeat for Italy sees Gianluigi Buffon retire from the international stage, with the Azzurri missing out on their first tournament in 60 years.

The Swedes put in an efficient performance in the first-leg in Stockholm, taking a slender 1-0 lead into the San Siro, with Italy knowing they needed to get at least a goal to force extra time, with the possibility of penalties.

However, despite the domination from the men in blue, the Meatballers managed to hold on, with thanks to Robin Olsen and their resilience at the back, keeping Giampiero Ventura’s men at bay for the majority of the tie.

Azzurri domination resisted

In a first half that the Azzurri dominated, they failed to find the breakthrough they needed after having glorious chances to take control of the tie.

Jorginho was a thorn in Sweden’s side throughout the half, as he continued to pull the strings and create problems for the defence.

The midfielder played a wonderfully deft ball into Ciro Immobile who managed to put a dangerous cross, just waiting for someone to get on the end of it. However, a strike from Antonio Candreva saw it sail high over the crossbar.

The combination of Immobile and Jorginho continued to make opportunities for the Italians, with the striker being put clean through on goal from a through ball, however, Olsen managed to keep the ball out, with Andreas Granqvist clearing it off the line.

The Swedish goalkeeper continued to deny the hosts throughout the half as Italy went into the break frustrated having failed to score.

It was not all Italy in the first half, with the Swedes having two penalty shouts turned down that could have been easily given on another day, when both Matteo Darmian and Andrea Barzagli appeared to handle the ball in the box.

They did, however, lose the first-leg hero Jakob Johansson to a freak injury, as he went down unchallenged after going for the ball and had to be stretchered from the pitch just a quarter of an hour into the clash.

No second half joy 

The second half continued in the same vein as the first half, with the Azzurri continuing to dominate the possession of the ball and having the chances to get the goal that would give them the opportunity to qualify.

Darmian found Alessandro Florenzi with a cross, however, the midfielder’s volley went just wide of the post before a Mikael Lustig header nearly deflected into his own net, crashing off the top of the crossbar.

Lustig could have given away a penalty for a challenge on Darmian just moments before, however, the referee determined the Manchester United man had handled the ball before the poor challenge from the Celtic defender.

The game threatened to fizzle out in Milan, as the Italians failed to make the most of any further opportunities, whilst Olsen was producing save after save to deny the men in blue.

The match would turn out to be legendary goalkeeper Buffon's last game for the Azzurri, having been capped 174 times for his country, making him the all-time record holder.