PABLO MARTINEZ / AIPS** in OLOMOUC: Not even the Swedish fans who packed the Andruv Stadium and sang throughout the opening Group B match at UEFA U21 Euro could have expected the dramatic turnaround which brought a 2-1 victory over Italy.
The fans kept on singing: “We Love Sweden” even after the 27th-minute expulsion of Alexander Milosevic and subsequent penalty converted by
Domenico Berardi gave Italy the advantage in goals and players.
But this is football and anything can happen over the course of 90 minutes. Thus the Sassuolo player, after a good first half, vanished from the game during the second, like most of his team-mates.
Sweden showed incredible fighting spirit to enforce Italy’s second half collapse and win their first game in the so-called ‘Group of Death.’ As coach Hacan Ericson had said on the eve of the game his team fear no one and he turned the match by playing with three defenders during the second half.
Each counterattack proved a nightmare for the Italian defenders and every corner threatened a goal. Hence, in the 56th minute, Abdul Khalili delivered to the far post, Sam Larsson crossed and JohnGuidetti diverted his first goal of the tournament.
That was only the start of the problems for Luigi Di Biagio’s Azzurrini. Italy had a clear chance to regain the lead but Danilo Cataldi missed his shot and the ball flew just beyond a post.
Then, six minutes later, Juventus’ Stefano Sturaro was sent off for a retaliatory punch after being fouled. This was not the end of Italy’s troubles.
In the 86th minute Isaac Kiese Thelin’ back heel sent in substitute Mikael Ishak who was brought down by Francesco Bardi. Bordeaux striker
Thelin converted the penalty to complete the reversal of fortunes.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and is co-operating with UEFA in running a Young Reporters course in the Czech Republic. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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