After the crushing failure of the last World Cup, Italy has rebuilt steadily under Antonio Conte and reached Euro 2016 thanks to a steady if unspectacular qualifying campaign in which they didn’t win any game by more than two goals and couldn’t beat their main rivals Croatia. The results of the warm-up games weren’t too impressive either, but that form had no bearing on the first game in Group E as Italy brushed Belgium aside to earn a 2-0 victory.
Sweden made efforts to qualify for Euro 2016, losing to Austria and Russia and finishing behind both of those teams in the final table. Three goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped Erik Hamren’s side to dominate a two-legged play-off with Denmark and earn their place in the tournament, but in a tough group, they got off to a slow start, being held 1-1 by the Republic of Ireland.
Italy vs. Sweden – H2H Stats
Italy against Sweden is one of European football’s oldest rivalries and dates back to 1912 when Sweden won their first encounter 1-0.
Overall, Italy has had the edge, winning nine times to Sweden’s seven, with six draws, and dominating their recent meetings. Italy won three of the last four matches against Sweden, including their latest game in 2009, and you have to go back to a friendly in 1998 to find Sweden’s final victory.
The two sides have met twice in the European Championship. In 2000, Italy won 2-1 in their final Group game, thanks to a last minute goal from Alessandro del Piero, and went on to reach the final. Four years later, Zlatan Ibrahimovic earned a draw five minutes from time as Sweden topped the Group en route to the last eight.
Italy’s system worked perfectly against Belgium, and there will be little reason for Antonio Conte to change it for what could prove to be the easiest of their three Group matches. If John O’Shea and Ciaran Clark can keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic quiet, then we can expect Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini to do the same, while a midfield trio led by Daniele de Rossi should dominate possession.
Sweden may want to shake things up for their toughest Group game but Erik Hamren has limited options. Having promised to encourage an attacking, expansive brand of football when he first got the job, qualification was assured with some typically direct and energetic play, based mainly on the strategy of getting it up to Zlatan Ibrahimovic as quickly as possible. It will be hard for Sweden to try something different now so they will probably line up with a rigid-looking 4-4-2 once more.
Italy v Sweden – Odds & Betting Markets
As seems so often to be the case, Italy was written off before the competition. It made little sense at the time for the Italians to be twice the price of England in the tournament winner’s market and with hindsight that looks even more ridiculous.
The habitual Italian slow start was nowhere displayed against Belgium, as they first dismantled the tournament second-favourites, then kept them at arm’s length to cruise to a comfortable and deserved victory.
Sweden, on the other hand, played poorly against Ireland and despite enjoying the majority of possession, could not muster a single shot on target. In theory, the way the teams line-up could give the Swedes opportunities out wide, as the three-centre-half formation is vulnerable to good wing play, but the Italians are confident and comfortable in their formation and should be able to keep their opponents out.
Backing Italy to see off Sweden is as close to a certainty as you’re going to get in this Group and you should back Italy to win at 4/5 with Skybet.
Odds for Correct Score
Although Zlatan Ibrahimovic is an obvious threat, that statistic of no shots on target against the Republic of Ireland is a revealing one. Sweden just doesn’t create many chances, and it’s hard to imagine them faring better against the water-tight Italian defence.
We can’t be sure how many Italy will score but they can keep a clean sheet against these opponents, and we can cover ourselves by backing Italy to win 2-0 at 7/1 and 3-0 at 15/1, both with BetVictor.
Odds for First Goalscorer
I don’t think Sweden will find the net in this game, so we can safely concentrate on Italy in the First Goalscorer market. Graziano Pelle missed a glorious chance against Belgium, but he got on the scoresheeet eventually and he remains the most likely goalscoring outlet for Italy, as well as being the only Italian striker certain to start.
Back him at 9-2 with Bet365 to score the first goal of the match.