Sweden vs Italy, European Under-21 Championship, June 19, 2009
Italy came into this tournament as one of the favorites to win the trophy and with great expectations but were disappointed to coming away from their opening match against Serbia with a draw. For a team which fields attacking talents such as Sebastian Giovinco, Mario Balotelli and Robert Acquafresca in the same line-up the managerial staff and fans expected more but all they saw was a mediocre performance from the Azzurrini.
The draw against Serbia has put Italy in a risky situation as any result but a win against the hosts Sweden will put qualification in danger. Heading towards the last match of the group fixtures against Belarus the Italians may have to rely on other results in order to progress. (Sweden are 21/10 to win, the draw is 11/5, while Italy are 13/10 to win.)
Coach Piereluigi Casiraghi admitted that he was disappointed in the performance against Serbia but insists his side will progress to the semi-finals, saying that they have to focus now on the match against Sweden.
Casiraghi will continue playing his 4-3-3 formation, with one change expected, Paolo De Ceglie dropping to his natural position at left-back and Daniele Dessena coming into the midfield. If the front three of Giovinco, Balotelli and Aquafresca can play well the Azzurrini should win despite facing a talented Swedish side.
Balotelli (5/1 to open the scoring) is probably the most famous name in the tournament but against Serbia he showed his inexperience with a selfish display that must have infuriated his team mates. The Inter Milan youngster could still yet light up the tournament if he can avoid his selfish tendencies.
After their 5-1 win over Belarus in Malmo, the host nation come into this match full of confidence for one of the most mouth watering games of the tournament. Sweden will be aware that the opening game victory will mean nothing against giants Italy and with a draw putting them in touching distance of qualification to the semi-finals they may play a defensive tactical game.
The Swedes are expected to start with the same 4-4-2 formation line-up that smashed Belarus, with Groningen ace Marcus Berg (13/2 to be the first scorer) alongside PSV Eindhoven attacker Ola Toivonen.
Both strikers were in fine form in the Dutch Eredivisie league in the second half of the season and were a real handful for the Belarus defence. Berg took all the plaudits with a hat-trick but there is no doubting Toivonenâ€™s physical qualities that led PSV to snap him up last January.
Backed by young talented playmaker Rasmus Elm who has already been promoted to Sweden’s senior squad, the Italians will have to raise their game at the Olympiastadion in Helsingborg.
Full match odds here.