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Italy vs. Sweden: Second leg keys to the game

As we know by now, Italy lost the first match in Sweden 1-0 and now have their backs against the wall. They are playing the second leg this evening at the San Siro in Milan and will be looking for a good performance in order to overturn the first leg result. Italy will need to win by two goals in order to qualify for the World Cup, and here are the keys to the game:

1. Bring the game to Sweden and score an early goal

There is no doubt that the atmosphere at the San Siro will be electric at the start. Reports have stated that the crowd will showcase a giant Italian flag as the players come out of the tunnel, showing their unity for the squad, however, the Italian fans historically lose their patience rather quickly, and it will be important for Italy to put pressure on Sweden and score an early goal. Sweden will probably be a little nervous to play in the atmosphere and an early goal from the azzurri would send the crowd into a frenzy and make the Swedes much more nervous. The longer Italy goes without a goal, the more anxious the fans will get and the more pressure the players will feel.

2. Have multiple points of attack

In the first match, Italy did not have a very concrete attacking plan. In fact, it seemed like the objective for the Italian squad was to get the ball out wide and cross it to the middle. Belotti had a great chance early on at a header and missed wide, but that was really the only aerial opportunity they had all match. In order to score multiple goals, Italy must not only focus on sending balls into the box from out wide, but will have to work through the middle as well. The midfield for Italy in Sweden was almost nonexistent, as it seems that the play went from the back three to Darmian or Candreva on the wings, and there would be no options to pass to in the middle of the field. This has to change as Italy will need to attack through the middle as well as on the wings in order to open Sweden up. The Swedes will undoubtedly be looking to stay compact and defend, so it will take multiple points of attack to break them down.

3. Keep a clean sheet

This may be an obvious one, but is probably the most important. An away goal from Sweden means Italy will have to score at least three goals. Italy has struggled to score in recent matches as they haven't scored more than three goals since a 5-0 win against Liechtenstein in June. Since then, they've scored 0 against Spain, 1 against Israel, 1 against Macedonia, 1 against Albania and 0 against Sweden. That's three goals in five matches. Italy will have to be very clean at the back and not even give the opportunity for a deflection like Sweden had against De Rossi in the first leg, as a goal would make things much more complicated for the azzurri.

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