The Italians left it late against Sweden on Friday in Toulouse, but they are through to the knockout stages.
Coach Antonio Conte brought a relatively inexperienced squad to France, and expectations were somewhat subdued as a result. But after an impressive showing against Belgium and the 1-0 win over Sweden, the Azzurri are looking like a good bet for a deep run in the tournament.
Italy’s famous tight defending went to work from the first whistle. Sweden’s captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic often had trouble creating any danger up front. The star striker was often forced to drop deep into midfield – as is common when he plays with the national team – and try to find teammates on the wings. Despite controlling 75 per cent of posession in the first half, however, Sweden were unable to put a single shot on target.
Sweden’s superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic struggled to leave his mark on the match
It was more of the same in the second half – Sweden controlling in posession, but unable to threaten goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Instead it was Italy who nearly jumped ahead in the 82nd minute, when midfielder Marco Parolo met a long cross into the…