Italy book their ticket to the knockout stages | EURO 2016

Italy has advanced to the knockout stages of the 2016 UEFA European championships after defeating Sweden 1-0 in Toulouse.

The Azzuri have proven that their opening victory against the Belgian’s was no fluke, after a late goal from Eder stole all three points from Sweden.

Late goals have been a common reoccurring theme at Euro 2016, and the Italian’s seem to have a knack for winning big games at big tournaments.

Nothing was expected of Italy in the lead up to France, even manager Antonio Conte wrote off the Azzuri prior to the tournament, stating they were an ageing side with a lack of superstar talent.

Perhaps his mind games worked, playing down the dark-horses of the tournament.

For the second consecutive match, Sweden failed to put a shot on target. Credit must be given to Italy’s defense, who have been first class so far in the tournament.

The chemistry from Italy’s all Juventus defense is impeccible. It’s a bond that cannot be broken with veteran fan favourite Gianluigi Buffon and his three compatriots Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci all protectors of the Italian goal.

It was a game that could have gone anyone’s way, with both teams sharing an equal amount of possession.

Italy have progressed through to the round of 16, and have the option to rest some of their starting players against Republic of Ireland, after coming off a long European season.

Sweden’s star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic has looked completely lifeless in the last two games, and has no doubt contributed to Sweden’s below par performances.

Can Italy go all the way?

 

Ari Charilaou