Italy eliminated as resilient Sweden earn draw
World Cup qualifying play-off, San Siro – Italy 0 Sweden 0 (Sweden win 1-0 on aggregate)
Italy missed out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958 as resolute Sweden booked their place in Russia with a heroic defensive display.
The hosts headed to the San Siro hoping to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit, but they failed to fashion clear-cut chances as their opponents defended in numbers.
Both sides saw penalty shouts waved away on a tense night, but Sweden were good value for their reward after keeping back-to-back clean sheets.
The result will mean the end for Italy manager Gian Piero Ventura, who has been under fire for much of the qualification campaign, while for Sweden it's a first World Cup since 2006.
Embarrassment for Italy - The Azzurri’s presence at the World Cup is usually a given –they have only once before failed to qualify for the tournament – but not now. Ventura will shoulder a lot of the blame, having constantly changed his tactics and personnel through this ill-fated campaign, but the inquest will have to look beyond just one man and it must be said that this Italian side is lacking in quality compared to those of the past. With players like Gianluigi Buffon set to retire, Italy must unearth a new generation of talents if it is to return to its former glory.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) - The Swedes defended brilliantly but none more so than Granqvist, who made a number of vital blocks and clearances.
13’ – PENALTY APPEAL! Huge appeals for a penalty, this time from Sweden, after the ball strikes the outstretched arm of Darmian. It's not given and Italy have really got away with one there.
27’ – CHANCE! A lovely dinked pass from Jorginho puts in Immobile, who fizzes a ball through the six-yard box that runs to Candreva who then blasts just over. Best chance of the game by some distance.
40’ – SAVE! Jorginho has been Italy's best player by a distance and he almost has an assist as another excellent through ball finds Immobile, but a combination of the goalkeeper and then Granqvist keeps the ball from crossing the line.
47’ – PENALTY APPEAL! Candreva's cross makes its way to an unsuspected Darmian at the back post and he promptly takes a knee in the ribs from Lustig, but whilst the home fans are screaming for a penalty the referee penalises Darmian for handball. He didn't touch the ball with either arm.
53’ – CHANCE! Darmian crosses from the left and Florenzi almost scores a spectacular goal, meeting it with a flying volley, but the ball spins just wide of the far post.
87’ – SAVE! Olsen makes a fine save to keep out a ferocious El Shaarawy volley from just 12 yards out.
The only other time Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup was in 1958, when Sweden hosted the tournament.
Italy remain unbeaten at the San Siro, a run that now spans 43 matches.