Why Sweden Deserves Our Respect & Attention
The last time prior to yesterday, that Italy did not qualify for the FIFA world cup was in 1958 (59years ago) hosted by Sweden and won by 17-year-old Pele’s Brazil.
Ironically as fate will have it, Sweden itself has, after a spirited performance, eliminated Italy from the 2018 World Cup on a 1-0 aggregate.
Many who have not been following Sweden through this World cup qualifiers could be forgiven for believing that it was a fluke, but football experts would tell you that the moment they drew Italy for the playoffs, knew Italy were in trouble!
The local Italian league has suffered for over a decade now with Juventus Turin being its only international competitive club side. Juventus star players, short of a few in the defensive zones like Giorgio Chellini, Gianluigi Buffon, etc are mostly foreigners. Hence that international strength form club cannot be transferred directly to the national team in a wholistic fashion. Especially on a night like yesterday where they needed talented individual offensive manoeuvres to break the densely populated Swedish defence line!
Yes, Italy did relatively well at the Euros hosted by France in 2016, but many argued that this was a mirage riding on the back of their then defeat and tactical outsmarting of then favourites, Belgium and not the eventual final achievement from the championships as a whole.
Sweden qualified to the playoffs by eliminating at the group stages the Netherlands and rising up to the task when they needed goals advantage over the Dutch by hammering Luxembourg 8-0!
Having defeated the Italians 1-0 at the 1st leg, Sweden needed a draw to reach the football promise land and create history, they did it, though at times with lots of luck, in a Heroic and tactically rounded manner.
Knowing fully well that the Italians lacked many creative players and wingers to tear them apart, they crowded middle areas of their defensive third and forced Italians to do what they are not too comfortable doing, take risks in an organised whole team manner, defenders inclusive.
It’s been since 2006 since the last appearance of the swedes at the World Cup finals,12 years absence comes to an end in a historic manner.
The swedes qualifying at the San Siro Italy, on away tuff against one of the most feared, respected and leading winning nations of soccer’s most prized trophy, the FIFA World Cup, does not only show and deserve respect, but deserves attention from any opponent who gets to trade blows with the swedes come Russia 2018 proper.
Though I feel badly for my Italian friends, however I raise up my hat for the History making Swedes!
Football is all about surprises.