Italy 0-0 Sweden (0-1 agg): World Cup play-off second leg – as it happened

Michael Butler on 13 November 2017

That’s it from me. Stick around for Simon Burnton’s match report, and for the sadists: more miserable quotes from Italians. Thanks for reading, and for your emails and tweets. Bye, and congratulations to Sweden!


Buffon has faced the cameras. He will never again wear Italy blue:

I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football. We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes.

Those who’ve played know how hard these matches are. We weren’t able to express ourselves at our best. We lacked the composure to score. Play-offs are decided by episodes and they went against us but you can understand that when you’re at fault.

We have pride, strength and we’re stubborn. We know how to get back up again as we’ve always done. I’m leaving an Italy side that will know how to speak for itself. Hugs to everyone, especially those I’ve shared this wonderful journey with.”

Gianluigi Buffon is comforted by manager Gian Piero Ventura.
Gianluigi Buffon is comforted by manager Gian Piero Ventura. Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP


Much of the talk will be of Italy’s demise, of the lack of cutting edge, of the lack of Insigne, of Ventura’s sacking, which surely is a matter of time. But let’s doff our caps to Sweden, it wasn’t pretty, but they fought for everthing: Lustig, Granqvist, Lindelof, Claesson and Larsson in particular were magnificent.


Always one who wants to stick the boot in …



Italy’s player drop to the turf. Some are in tears. Sweden’s players run in all directions in celebration, some unsure of exactly what to do, or where to go. Lustig runs straight to the away fans, waving his shirt. The San Siro whistles and booes, but there’s nothing to be done now, Italy will not be going to Russia. This is how Gianluigi Buffon’s international career will end.

Full-time: Sweden qualify for the World Cup! Italy are out!

Italy 0-0 Sweden (0-1 agg)

Sebastian Larsson falls to his knees at the final whistle.
Sebastian Larsson falls to his knees at the final whistle. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters


90+5 min: Another corner to Italy. Here comes Buffon again. But it’s another shocking cross, and then Chiellini is given offside. The ref is looking at his watch …

90+4 min: Corner to Italy. Here comes Buffon! But it’s over the Italy keeper’s head, cleared as far as Florenzi, who volleys a shot from the edge of the area wide. Olsen gets a yellow card for time wasting.

90+3 min: Bernardeschi is booked for fouling Larsson. Sweden will take their time over this.

90+2 min: Italy have a penalty shout! Bonucci glances on a cross, it bounces off Granqvist’s knee and onto his arm, but that was purely accidental. You can’t give that, if you don’t give the Darmian one earlier.

90 min: Five minutes added on! FIVE! I can’t think of a single reason why it would be more than three.


89 min: Barzagli needlessly clatters into Berg on the half-way line. Sweden breath a collective sigh of relief.


88 min: Man is definitely not hot.

“Stress level is dangerously high and rising,” emails Mats Anderson. “Would a single Swedish player get into the Italian team? Probably not. Less than 20 minutes left. And incredibly we’re still leading. Refs been good too. *wipes brow, towel no wet*”

86 min: Italy twice go close! El Shaarawy shoots from 10 yards inside the near post, and Olsen does well to reach high to his right. Next another ball is tossed into the ball, and Parolo climbs like a salmon at the penalty spot, again glancing towards the back post. It trickles wide, but if El Shaarawy had been more alive, he could easily have had a tap in!

Marco Parolo heads wide.
Marco Parolo heads wide. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images


85 min: Belotti cuts in from the right and fires a lame shot wide. Italy have five minutes to do this for Antonio Carluccio.

84 min: Another Italy free kick, another terrible delivery, this time by the substitute Bernardeschi. Food and drink for the Swedish defence.

82 min: Save by Olsen: a whipped cross finds Parolo on the penalty spot, who glances a header towards the back post, but Sweden’s keeper is able to palm the ball away, before Immobile is penalised for offside as he goes for the rebound.

79 min: Sweden embark on a rare counter-attack. Forsberg canters down the left, checks back onto his favoured right and crosses to Berg. Sweden’s No9 should head at goal, but instead tries to nod the ball back to Kiese Theilin, but Bonucci (now with his mask removed) gets in the way.

78 min: “I am following the MBM in Toronto and I for one hoping that they don’t qualify,” emails Bruce Cooper. “Italy has shunned Sebastian Giovinco this qualification campaign which has been great as a TFC supporter since he has been well rested. Even if they qualify I feel like they will do some housekeeping and then they might notice that they have a striker scoring some fantastic goals over here in the MLS. The last thing we need is to lose our best player for 6 weeks next summer.”

77 min: Chiellini is now playing left wing. No joke. He glides past Berg, giving the Swedish striker a whack with the elbow and delivers a delicious cross to the back post. Svensson gets a vital touch to glance the ball off Belotti’s head, before Jorginho blazes over!

Giorgio Chiellini gestures in despair.
Giorgio Chiellini gestures in despair. Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP


76 min: Italy are starting to lose their composure here, as the clock ticks down. Belotti holds the ball up, and then passes the ball out for a Sweden throw in. Anguish all around the San Siro. Italy are going to make their final change: Bernardeschi on, Candreva off. That’s a surprise.


75 min: For those of you that didn’t realise, the last post was a joke. Buffon should be playing right wing.

74 min: This would be such a terrible way to end Buffon’s Italy career. Maybe bring on Donnarumma for the last 10, and stick him up front?

72 min: Sweden make their final change: Rohden on for Claesson, who has been excellent in defence.

71 min: Another corner to Italy. But the delivery is poor, it doesn’t beat the first man, who is Claesson. Italy have a problem: Sweden have dropped too deep to bother with any through balls, yet when they get the ball wide and cross, their gigantic defence are able to head it clear. So what they need is a long-range belter, or a moment of mesmeric wide play that lands the ball on a sixpence for Belotti, Immobile and co.

70 min: Twenty minutes left. A couple of emails that echo my feelings at this point:

Ryan Alderfer: “I’m so conflicted inside. Sweden knocking out Italy would be brilliant! But, a World Cup without Italy?! That’s like Christmas without eggnog! Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie!”

Karl Correa: “I can’t believe that Italy are on the verge of being knocked out. I am 34 years old and have never experienced anything like that. Even though I despise them since I am a France fan, I cannot imagine they not being in the World CUP. They are the only team that own the parked bus; a lesson in defense. Has that been their folly though? Too defensive?”

68 min: Italy hit the bar! Sort of. A dangerous Florenzi cross deflects off the head of Lustig, the ball loops up and lands on top of Olsen’s bar and behind for a corner. It didn’t ever look like it was going in, but Olsen was certainly scrambling. Sweden defend the corner well.

66 min: Yellow card for Lustig, who cynically chops down Florenzi.

65 min: I have no idea what formation Italy are playing now. I think it’s still 3-5-2, except the two wide men of the five are playing as proper wingers, not wing backs.

64 min: Italy make a double change: Darmian and Gabbiadini off, Belotti and El Shaarawy on. Here we go then! Consider that dice rolled!

62 min: It’s all Italy, but the final ball is letting them down time and time again. They need better quality from wide areas.

“We’re putting on our best Ireland-impression. So far it’s working, ??” emails Thomas Krantz.

60 min: Italy are starting to commit players forward, and they are in danger of becoming unstuck at the back. Twice Sweden have countered in numbers, and ended up two on two, but poor play has let them down. First a terrible cross from Berg allowed Barzagli to clear, then Kiese Thelin was well tackled by Chiellini when he was one on one with the Juventus defender.

Thelin is tracked by Giorgio Chiellini as Sweden break.
Thelin is tracked by Giorgio Chiellini as Sweden break. Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images


58 min: Candreva has been Italy’s chief threat down that right flank, and he slips a nice ball to Immobile, who has dropped a little deeper. Immobile cuts the ball back to Chiellini, who strikes it first time, but a magnificent block from Claesson takes the sting out of the shot, and Olsen collects the loose ball.

57 min: “As a neutral and England fan, honoured to get knocked out in the Round of 16 by either of these teams next summer”, emails Dan Davies.

55 min: Change for Sweden up top: they have to make it stick. Kiese Thelin on, Toivenen on. Kiese Thelin is very quick, he’ll pose a different problem for Italy’s BBC at the back.

54 min: Volley from Florenzi … just wide. Barzagli (!) crossed from the left flank, Florenzi slightly scuffed the volley, and it trickled a yard wide of Olsen’s left post. They’re getting closer.

Alessandro Florenzi comes close.
Alessandro Florenzi comes close. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters


52 min: Sweden cannot get out. They have defended well but look devoid of any quality going forward, refusing to anything but hoof the ball clear. It’s wave after wave of Italy attacks. At least when Sweden went long in the first leg, there was some quality up to Berg and Toivenen. Those two haven’t had a sniff since the 20th minute.

50 min: An email from Mats Anderson, in Varberg, Sweden: “We have been brilliant in defence. And should have had 2 penalties. Italy have to win this. They have everything going for them. Better team. Bigger league. Home advantage. But we’re making them prove all their points, Points have to be earned. And we still lead 1-0 on aggregate. The god(s) is/are still with us. This is not good for my blood pressure, not good at all.”

Hold on, Mats.

48 min: Darmian is back on. He’s fine.

47 min: Italy straight on the offensive again. Candreva whips the ball in, over everybody’s heads apart from Darmian, who does well to control the ball before he is hacked to the ground inside the penalty area! The referee whistles … free kick to Sweden! That is a bizarre decision, but it looks as though Antonio Lahoz has penalised Darmian for controlling the ball with his hand. Which replays show he did not do! Darmian looks as though he’s winded, such was the clumsiness of Lustig’s challenge. He’ll have to go off temporarily.

Matteo Darmianis taken out by Mikael Lustig.
Matteo Darmianis taken out by Mikael Lustig. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images


Peeeeeep! We’re underway again. I’ve just realised how nice it is to type Sweden.


Remarkably, there are no substitutions for Italy. I simply can’t believe Insigne isn’t on the pitch. Gabbiadini, as he always does, looks like he’s just rolled out of bed.

“I hope I can be the first to advise Jeremy Dresner not to expect any parties tonight” quips Kieran McHugh.

Yes. In this alternative reality, they would hang on until just after half-time, until a Mario Balotelli header would crash against the inside of the far post and in. Pirlo, still playing at the age of 38, would then curl a delicious free kick past Jack Butland on the 65th minute. Gareth Southgate would bring on Marcus Rashford on the 80th minute – a good 15 minutes too late – who would take Barzagli to the cleaners and win a penalty, which Harry Kane would miss. Commentators would call this the worst England performance since last summer. Southgate would be awarded a four-year contract extension, and vow to “come back stronger.”

To put that half into context, Italy have had 75% possession (326 passes to Sweden’s 70) and had 11 attempts to Sweden’s one. Yet they could easily have conceded two penalties. The first claim, the handball by Darmian, really should have been given. Remember one away goal for Sweden, and Italy have to score three times.

“That Immobile foiling goal-line clearance led to the first ‘Mama Mia!’ I have heard from the assembled Italians I am with here in Little Italy NYC,” emails Jeremy Dresner. “No Pirlo in this pizza parlour sadly …”

Ciro Immobile reacts.
Ciro Immobile reacts. Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images


Half-time: Italy 0-0 Sweden (0-1 agg)

One of the best goalless halves of football I’ve seen. It feels like we’ve only played 15 minutes. Jorginho has been excellent for Italy, just like he’s been for Napoli this season. Verratti who?


45+3 min: Free-kick to Sweden. They can finally take a breather after 20 minutes of pressure. Larsson lumps it up into Italy’s box, Buffon fumbles it! But Forsberg can only help the bouncing ball back into the box, and Parolo is able to launch it clear. Peeep! That’s the half.

45+1 min: Three minutes added on for injury time.

45 min: Another fine save from Olsen! Florenzi skips past Lustig with a sweet nutmeg, drives into the penalty area and from a tight angle fires his shot at goal. It’s low and straight at Olsen, but the Swedish keeper still does well to get down to the shot, and make sure the rebound bounces safely clear. San Siro comes alive again.

43 min: This is now all Italy. Sweden are hanging on by their fingernails. Darmian gets to the byline, cuts it back towards Gabbiadini, but Granqvist puts a magnificent sliding tackle in on the Southampton man, just as he was pulling the trigger on the penalty spot. What a tackle! Can Sweden make it to half-time?

40 min: Great save from Olsen! Another beautiful pass from Jorginho releases Immobile behind the Swedish defence, the Lazio striker collects the ball well and shoots on the turn, but the keeper spread himself well and just got enough on the ball to prevent it going in. The ball was trickling in, but Lindelof gets back to clear the ball off the line!

Ciro Immobile’s shot is deflected off Olsen and is cleared of the line by Lindelof..
Ciro Immobile’s shot is deflected off Olsen and is cleared of the line by Lindelof.. Photograph: Antonio Calanni/AP


38 min: The San Siro has quietened somewhat, the initial fervour dying down as half-time approaches, with Italy still 1-0 down in this tie.

35 min: It’s attack v defence at the momont, although Italy aren’t showing an awful lot of penetration. Berg, Toivonen and Larsson are doing an excellent job of winning cheap free kicks, to help Sweden get up the pitch.

33 min: Bonucci looks as though he’s struggling a little bit, and not just because of the mask. He’s hobbling slightly, but not exactly one to throw the towel in. Astori is sent for a warm up, but it looks as though Bonucci is going to stay on.

31 min: Italy have been the better side, especially down this right side with Candreva, and Jorginho has looked tidy in that creative midfield role, in the absence of Verratti. But Darmian looks incapable of beating Lustig on that left flank. The sooner that Insigne comes on, the better.

29 min: Another penalty shout for Sweden! Again, waved away! Forsberg breaks on the left, plays a lofted pass towards Berg, and the ball clearly strikes Barzagli’s hand! Forsberg is incensed at at the decision, berating the referee, so much so he picks up a yellow card for dissent. That could have been disastrous for Italy: a penalty and a possible second yellow card for Barzagli. But they get away with it.

27 min: Chance for Candreva! Ohhh, this is the best chance they’ve created in both legs, but the Inter winger blazes an Immobile cutback over the bar. A delightful chip from Jorginho had released Immobile, who got to the byline and cut the back across the six-yard box, through a crowd of players, before Candreva fired his powerful shot over the bar at the back post.

Antonio Candreva reacts after blazing over.
Antonio Candreva reacts after blazing over. Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images


25 min: Italy have changed tact somewhat, to their credit. They are getting the ball wide, to Darmian and Candreva, and packing the box: four blue shirts filled the Sweden box on the last attack. But the crossing has been woeful thus far, with Lustig and Augustinsson forcing them to make mistakes. Their defending has been excellent thus far.

22 min: Barzagli booked, for one of the most cynical fouls on Forsberg you are ever likely to see. The RB Leipzig man turned neatly away in midfield and Barzagli wasn’t ready to let Sweden’s danger man get away from him.

19 min: It’s not a pretty game, but at the very least it’s nice to the the San Siro bouncing. It’s been a while since I’ve watched a game where the atmosphere is this intense here. Remarkably though, it’s not a sell out!

Italy have an excellent record here, though: 27 games played, 22 won, four drawn. A draw here is not enough, of course.


17 min: Johansson collapses in the centre circle, with nobody around him. Oh no, this looks like a bad injury, maybe a cruciate knee injury. The stretcher is called on, and the goalscorer from the first leg is carted off in tears. He’s done for the night. Gustav Svensson, of the Seattle Sounders, will come on in his place. The Italian crowd clap him off, to their belated credit.

15 min: Jorginho threads a ball through for Immobile, who is forced wide but manages to get a shot off from a tight angle, which hits the byline. That’s better from Italy, Immobile certainly has the Swedish defence for pace.

Ciro Immobile takes a shot from too tight an angle.
Ciro Immobile takes a shot from too tight an angle. Photograph: Antonio Calanni/AP


12 min: Penalty shout for Sweden! Surely that was a handball. Again, waved away! Oh my, that was a definite penalty, Forsberg nicked in and toed the ball past Darmian, the ball clearly hitting the Manchester United defender’s hand. It probably wasn’t deliberate, but one of those ones where it was so blatant it is seldom not punished. Italy certainly got away with one there.

10 min: It’s been very scrappy. Sweden will be all too happy to foul their way to a 0-0 draw, and Italy know from the first leg they’ve got to step up to it physically. Johansson clatters Jorgino and is shown another yellow. The ref is looking to make his mark.

7 min: Penalty shout for Italy! Some loose passing and control leaves the ball pinballing around Sweden’s box. Parolo is first to the loose ball and collapses immediately after contact with Augustinsson. It looks like a dive, but replays show it was a very clumsy tackle. Referee Antonio Miguel waves play on, much to the disgust of the San Siro. As Sweden break, Chiellini fouls Toivonen and is promptly shown the night’s first yellow card.

Marco Parolo is challenged by Ludwig Augustinsson.
Marco Parolo is challenged by Ludwig Augustinsson. Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images


5 min: Darmian gets to the byline and hooks a hopeful cross back towards the edge of the area. Florenzi is there and swings a right boot, but scuffs the volley well wide. He’s capable of doing something special from long range, just remember THAT GOAL for Roma against Barcelona.

4 min: Candreva very nearly puts Chiellini in trouble with an misplaced pass at the back, but the Juventus defender skips past a couple of challenges to get his side out of trouble.

2 min: Italy don’t appear to have changed their mentality at all. A few long, hopeful balls into the channels for Immobile and Gabbiadini to chase. Nothing more. That will suit Lustig, Lindelof, Granqvist and Augustinsson just fine.

Peeeeeeeeep! And we’re off. Sweden are 90 minutes away from the World Cup in Russia.

Leonardo Bonucci and Ciro Immobile sing a passionate national anthem.
Leonardo Bonucci and Ciro Immobile sing a passionate national anthem. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters


And so to the San Siro. The teams are out: Italy in their royal blue, white shorts, Sweden in their yellow shirts, blue shorts. Sweden’s national anthem is roundly booed by those in the stands. And Buffon spends most of it clapping, apparently in encouragement. Italy’s is sung with ardent passion: Immobile appears to be crying, Florenzi looks crazed - his eyes popping out of his head (it’s his first international in 14 months), Bonucci – black mask firmly in place – screams down the line at his team-mates. I’d say that they are up for it.


No pressure. Currently set to be Jakob [Johansson] Larsson, which is about as Swedish as you can get. But there is time for a few more heroes.

Our first email of the night. You can send yours to or tweet me @michaelbutler18.

“Is there an argument that Sweden should go for Italy for the first 15-20 minutes” asks David Bertram. “They certainly won’t be expecting it and an away goal would leave the Italians in real bother.”

Nope. Strangle the game, as they did so well in the first leg, wait for Ventura to panic and Italy abandon their shape in hope of an equaliser, and then pounce.

Let’s unpack those teams a bit then …


No Insigne! Darmian is playing left wing. Jesus. Belotti, the man who effectively got former Torino boss Ventura the Italy job, is dropped for Southampton’s Gabbiadini. De Rossi will also be warming the bench having played the full 90 minutes on Friday, and with the suspended Verratti also out, Jorginho and Florenzi come into central midfield. Italy’s defence of Barzagli, Chiellini and Bonucci – all 99 years of them – are unchanged, even if Bonucci’s nose isn’t – it’s broken from the first leg, he’ll be wearing a mask.


Goalscorer from the first leg, Jakob Johansson, comes in for the outrageously handsome Albin Ekdal, who has picked up a groin strain. Celtic’s Mikael Lustig comes in at right back. Otherwise, it is as you were. Expect more of the same.


The teams

Italy 3-5-2: Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Candreva, Florenzi, Jorginho, Parolo, Darmian, Gabbiadini, Immobile.
Subs: Donnarumma, Rugani, Gagliardini, Belotti, Insigne, Astori, De Rossi, Eder, Bernardeschi, Zappacosta, El Shaarawy, Perin.
Sweden 4-4-2: Olsen, Lustig, Lindelof, Granqvist, Augustinsson, Claesson, Johansson, Larsson, Forsberg, Toivonen, Berg.
Subs: Johnsson, Olsson, Thelin, Guidetti, Helander, Svensson, Krafth, Jansson, Rohden, Durmaz, Sema, Nordfeldt.
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (Spain)

Despite all this JEOPARDY and EXCITEMENT, it is worth remembering that this could be Gianluigi Buffon’s final international appearance tonight. He’s spoke to the cameras yesterday, and I won’t lie, I’ve heard him sound more confident.

Forza? Photograph: Antonio Calanni/AP

We can make no mistakes, we are focusing on what we must do to win but if we fail to qualify everybody should take the blame. We are not stressed, personally I am focused on the game and I hope fans will support us. Sweden are a solid side and their behaviour will make little difference, it all depends on us.

We know we can win this game, we dream to qualify for the World Cup, it’s an important game for us and for the history of the national team. I’ve already faced similar situations in my career, sometimes I’ve succeeded, some other times I’ve failed.”


A week ago today, Andrea Pirlo announced his retirement from football. What Italy would do for a 30-year-old Pirlo now, the perfect antidote to all the “high tension” apparently engulfing the national squad, put his foot on the ball, seemingly with enough time to light a cigar, and split Sweden’s defence wide open with the swoosh of his right boot.

With arguably Italy’s best player nowadays – Marco Verratti – suspended for tonight’s crucial World Cup play-off second leg, the Azzurri look woefully short of the world-class talent of yesteryear. That said, on paper at least, they should beat Sweden, and 1-0 down from the first leg, that’s exactly what they will have to do if they want to avoid becoming the first Italy side not to qualify for a World Cup since 1958.

Just one away goal at the San Siro means Italy will have to score thrice, not a likely development based upon the veracity of Sweden’s defending on Friday, and the bluntness of Italy’s attack.

Ridiculously, Gian Piero Ventura opted for a 3-5-2 formation in Stockholm, instead of the 4-4-2 he had selected in six of seven of Italy’s previous qualifiers. He left out his most potent attacking talent – Lorenzo Insigne – in favour of another central midfielder. There was no width, strikers Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti looked isolated (the latter having just five touches in 65 minutes of play) with Italy’s best chance came from a chance long-range strike from Matteo Darmian.

Of course, Sweden deserve a huge amount of credit for Friday’s result. Throughout qualifying, the team has showed a huge amount of togetherness under Janne Andersson, who without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, fully deserved to qualify in second place of Group A, behind France and ahead of Holland. Captain Andreas Granqvist, who failed to make the grade at Wigan a few years ago, has been a colossus at the back, Sebastian Larsson has been revitalised in central midfield, Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen are a big handful and run their socks off – what they lack in quality, they more than make up for in hard work. Emil Forsberg is the star, a classic No10 who has been the driving force behind RB Leipzig’s recent success, and he will be the chief threat for the Swedes in Milan.

Emil Forsberg.
Emil Forsberg. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

It couldn’t be better poised. My money is on Sweden, but what kind of a World Cup would it be without Italy?

Kick off: 7.45pm GMT, 8.45pm in Milan.


Latest Football News