Two games, two clean sheets, qualification assured. It is job done for Antonio Conte with the Azzurri easing once more towards the serious end of a major tournament. Should they have any impact in the knock-out stages they will need to play much, much better than this - Eder’s brilliant 88th-minute goal was out of keeping with a dire match, but after some group stage embarrassments in recent years they will be simply relieved to get through.
Sweden, however, are going out unless they beat Belgium in Nice on Wednesday. To do so they will surely have to manage a shot on target, something they have failed to do so far in two matches (their goal against Republic of Ireland was an own goal). Their talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is finding this level of competition much harder than bullying Lique 1 with Paris St Germain and no-one else looks like scoring.
If matches were won by supporters Sweden would have romped home, their yellow-shirted hordes massively outnumbering and outshouting the Azzurri support. Indeed, swathes of the nominally Italian section were wearing yellow - without any hint of trouble, Italy may have a domestic problem with hooliganism but it is rarely exported. However, fans’ influence on a game is limited. England all but filled the stadium when they played Romania here in the 1998 World Cup, and Glenn Hoddle’s team lost 2-1.
The massed Swedes almost had something to shout about as early as the third minute as KIm Kallstrom (Arsenal’s invisible transfer window signing of 2014) crossed deep towards Ibrahimovic but Giorgio Chiellini made a brave clearing header.
That, however, was pretty much it for meaningful first-half goalmouth action. Martin Olsson looked bright early on but faded. Italy’s wing-backs Antonio Candreva and Alessandro Fiorenzi got into some dangerous positions but were unable to deliver a piercing final ball. Ibrahimovic displayed some typically languid, classy touches, including a nice skip around Marco Parolo, but was only allowed space far from goal. He may have had more impact had he not played so deep, or had Daniele de Rossi - who picked Ibrahimovic up when he dropped off the front - been booked for lunging in midway through the half.
Victor Kassai was lenient then but unsighted early in the second period when Chiellini appeared to catch Albin Ekdal off the ball. Sweden were outraged but none of the other officials saw it and TV pictures were inconclusive. Ekdal recovered and the next injury was to Pelle’s pride as he was the first player to be substituted . The Southampton striker had been poor, but no worse than many others.
The game slowly picked up pace as both teams realised the other was there for the taking but aside from an overdue caution for De Rossi there was still no incident of note until Ibrahimovic seemed to miss a 72nd-minute sitter. Then it transpired he had been flagged offside.
There were eight minutes left when finally, a goal was threatened. Emanuele Giaccherini curled a cross in from the left and Marco Parolo rose at the far post and headed onto the bar. That seemed to wake Italy up. Six minutes later Chiellini, leaving his own half for maybe the only time, took a quick throw-in which Simone Zaza flicked on into the path of Eder. The Sampdoria striker had been anonymous, but now he smashed his name into the headlines bursting past a series of ineffectual tackles to lash the ball inside Andreas Isaksson’s far pst.
Eder nearly grabbed a second, bringing a sharp save from Isaksson, before Italy closed the game out, surviving a penalty appeal when Andreas Granqvist fell theatrically in the box. Next they play Ireland. With qualification gained Martin O’Neill will hope Conte rests a few players.
Italy (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Candreva, Parolo, De Rossi, Giaccherini, Fiorenzi; Pelle, Eder.
Substitutes: Zaza (for Pelle, 60), Motta (for De Rossi, 74), Stuaro (for Fiorenzi, 85)
Sweden (4-4-2): Isaksson; Johansson, Lindelof, Granqvist, Olsson; Larsson, Ekdal, Kallstrom, Forsberg; Guidetti, Ibrahimovic.
Substitutes: Lewicki (for Ekdal, 79) Durmaz (for Forsberg, 79), Berg (for Guidetti, 85)
Referee: V Kassai (Hungary)
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