By Oliver Marsh (Italy) & Michael Oddie (Sweden)
Italy (Oliver Marsh)
Last match recap
While many teams have made slow and even unconvincing starts to the tournament, the one team to really stand out in the first round of matches was Italy. They were superb against Belgium, who are the highest ranked European team in the FIFA rankings lest we forget. I was surprised that Belgium didn’t score, but the fact that they didn’t was a testament to how well Italy did. Belgium played as individuals, while Italy played as a team.
This was the ultimate reminder not to underestimate the Italians, who must now be favourites to top the Group of Death. While I had imagined a scrappy goal from Italy, if they scored at all, there was serious flair to both their goals that will surely have everyone else standing up to take notice. For all the downplaying before the tournament, they mean business.
How I will watch it
Another day, another 2pm kick-off while I’m in the office. While they were kind enough to let us watch England vs Wales yesterday, I wouldn’t expect the same leniency for Italy vs Sweden, even if I emphasise what is at stake for me (sweepstakes: changing team loyalties in Europe since 1960). I will be listening to this one on the radio knowing that the weekend, and the freedom to watch the football whenever and wherever, is just around the corner.
Prediction: Italy 2 – 1 Sweden
I think that Italy will continue their impressive start. Sweden will want to hit back after drawing their opening game against Republic of Ireland, so I get the feeling they will have a bright start. I predict Italy to surge to a 2-0 lead however, Graziano Pellè scoring at least one, before Zlatan opens his Euro 2016 account to make things interesting in the last 20 minutes. Despite this, I see Italy coming away as relatively comfortable winners.
Sweden (Michael Oddie)
Last match recap
Sweden did not have the best start to the competition against an average Ireland side. Ireland looked a much better team than Sweden despite the lack of big name stars in their line-up. Norwich player Olsson was the only real shining star for Sweden in offense. He consistently played killer balls into the box but Berg had some real trouble getting on the end of them. He wasn’t just playing these balls in though he was getting in the positions to send the balls with some great pace much like Kyle Walker for England so far. Sweden had no such venom from the right side however as they had a first half injury to their right back Mikael Lustig forcing Hamren to play Erik Johansson at right back who is traditionally a centre back. I expect this change will continue through to this game as Lustig is a doubtful.
Against better opposition this week I’d like to see Zlatan playing slightly further forward trying to get on the end of the balls from Olsson and a start for Guidetti over Berg because although Guidetti didn’t make as bigger impact of the bench as I originally expected, anything is better than Bergs performance in the last match. Larsson lost the ball more times than any in the last game and I expect Erik Hamren to start Durmaz over him in this fixture. I can only agree with this change due to the poor nature of Larsson’s performance over Ireland although I’ve previously rated Larsson as a player.
How I will watch it
I’ll be at a poker game with some friends hopefully taking money from them as I simultaneously make money from betting against the team I’m reporting on!
Prediction: Italy 2 – 0 Sweden
Italy’s performance against Belgium was the best I’ve seen of the competition so far against the best team who have lost so far in this tournament. They had real venom in front of goal and I think Zaza can replace the doubtful Pelle today and Italy can easily get the result they need.
If Italy don’t close down Olsson then Sweden will continually make half chances throughout the game but I expect between Barzagli and Bernardeschi Italy should be able to cope with the Swede’s only threat. Sweden need to win either here or against Belgium to have a chance of staying in the competition. Before the tournament you would have fancied this the easier of the two games but after the Italians performance against the Belgians this has to be considered the harder of two.