Italy in state of ‘high tension’ before Sweden second leg

  • buffon

Italy in state of ‘high tension` before Sweden second leg

Italy will be in a state of “tension” as they bid to avoid a World Cup exit against Sweden, says goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in what could be his final competitive international.

The Azzurri, who lost the first leg 1-0, will fail to reach a World Cup for the first time since 1958 if they do not win at the San Siro on Monday.

Buffon said: “It’s an important match for us and our history.

“I’m tense, but it’s the right amount of tension.”

The 39-year-old Juventus goalkeeper, who is retiring at the end of the season, will win his 175th cap against the Swedes.

Sweden lead the two-legged tie thanks to Jakob Johansson’s deflected strike at the Friends Arena on Friday.

The first leg on the outskirts of Stockholm was extremely physical, with defender Leonardo Bonucci breaking his nose in a clash with Ola Toivonen.

Under-pressure Italy coach Giampiero Ventura, the oldest boss in the country’s history at 69, says they will try to qualify by “playing football”.

Ventura, who replaced Antonio Conte after Euro 2016, said: “We are Italy and, if we qualify, I would like to be able to say that we did it by playing football.

“I don’t know what sort of game it will be but I hope it will be played in the correct spirit.”

Ventura has been surprised at the amount of discussions over his tactics.

He will have to replace the suspended Marco Verratti on Monday. In the first leg, Lorenzo Insigne – the Napoli winger many Italian fans think should have started – was brought on to replace Verratti in central midfield.

“I’ve received so much advice in the last few days that – if I tried to listen to it all it would take months,” said the former Torino boss.

“I know that’s how it works when you are coach of the national team, although I didn’t expect it to be quite like this.”

Sweden say they are not getting complacent as they chase a result in Italy. An early goal would leave the Azzurri needing to score three times, with the away goals rule counting in play-offs.

“We’re fully aware of the task ahead of us, going to Italy with a slender 1-0 lead,” said Hull midfielder Sebastian Larsson. “To keep a clean sheet was obviously something we really wanted and we’re pleased with that. We re-focus and go again.

“We’re going to stay humble and do everything we can to progress.”

Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist, highly impressive in the first game, does not expect the Italians to change their style.

“I don’t think Italy are a team that are just going to attack, because then they know that we will create chances and maybe score a goal in Italy, and then they need to score three,” he said.

And the former Genoa player laughed at Italy’s complaints about their physical first-leg play.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “As a defender, you have to be really tough, but in a good way. I think the referee kept it good – of course there were some situations they were angry about, but this is football.”