Swedes celebrate their winning goal against Italy.
Swedes celebrate their winning goal against Italy.

Swedish Nightmare for Italy

With the away goal rule counting in World Cup play-offs, a Swedish goal at the San Siro Stadium in the second leg on Monday would leave the Azzurri needing to score three times

Swedish Nightmare for Italy

Sweden won the first leg of the European zone play-off against Italy 1-0 at the Friends Arena in Solna north of Stockholm to get a step closer to a slot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. The only goal came in the 62nd minute when Jakob Johansson drilled home from 20 yards, via a Daniele de Rossi deflection.
The Swedes were the better team in the first half, and while the Azzurri slightly improved after the break, they were still disappointing, FIFA website reported.
Matteo Darmian went closest to equalizing but hit the post. Italy - which will be without the suspended Marco Verratti - will need to win Monday’s second leg at the San Siro Stadium in Milan to reach the World Cup in Russia.
“This result is punishing. Now all that matters is getting the result. We have to turn everything on its head back in Milan. San Siro must give us a hand too but it is up to us to deliver a great performance for our fans,” Gian Piero Ventura, manager of Italy national team, said.
Sweden, that finished above the Netherlands to seal the play-off spot, looked up for the game from the very first whistle. Swedish keeper Robin Olsen only had to make two saves all night. All the other players played at a high-energy tempo, showing plenty of aggression in their attacks.
Most of the chances in the first half were Sweden’s - with six shots to Italy’s one. Sweden - which lost to Italy at Euro 2016 - is now one clean sheet in Milan away from reaching its first World Cup since 2006.
With the away goal rule counting in World Cup play-offs, a Swedish goal at the San Siro would leave the Azzurri needing to score three times.
  Aussies Hopeful
Australia earned a scoreless draw against Honduras in the first leg of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia intercontinental play-off, gaining a slim advantage heading into the return match.
It was the Socceroos who dominated the home side for periods of the match on an exceptionally heavy pitch in San Pedro Sula, a city in northern Honduras, but they were unable to finish any of their opportunities.
Tomi Juric had two excellent sights of goal - one in each half - while the lively Massimo Luongo forced Donis Escober into an early save.
Honduras failed to test Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan until the final ten minutes when substitute forward Carlo Costly raced onto a long ball to force a save with a stinging shot.
Australia will be chasing a fourth successive World Cup qualification, and Honduras a third, when the team’s match-up in Sydney on Wednesday.

  Goalkeepers as Spectators
New Zealand and Peru played out a finely-balanced scoreless draw on Saturday leaving all to play in Lima on Wednesday when 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia qualifying draws to a close.
Peru started far stronger in Wellington but New Zealand forced its way into the contest after half-time, and only a matter of inches denied the All Whites a late winner.
Both goalkeepers were spectators for periods of the match as the two sides struggled to settle into a rhythm, although the sometimes physical nature of the contest was a reminder of the rich prize on offer.
Peru, which is seeking to end a 36-year World Cup drought, will feel it has the advantage but an away goal would change momentum in the final match of global qualifying for Russia 2018.


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