Euro 2016: Italy vs Sweden - 5 players to watch out for
Two contrasting teams go into this Group E encounter in Toulouse on Friday. On one hand, there’s Italy who are an epitome of collective performance. And on the other, is a one-man army in Sweden who almost wholly depend on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s heroics. While Italy will be looking to seal their Round of 16 berth by winning against Eric Hamren’s men, Sweden will themselves look to go through this group of death with minimal bruises.
In their first match of Euro 2016, Antonio Conte and his men produced a tactical masterclass against Belgium winning the tie 2-0. Goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle helped the Azzurri's put up a show which shamed the Belgian stars.
Ibrahimovic led Sweden, however, survived a scare as they drew 1-1 against The Republic of Ireland thanks to a Ciaran Clark own goal which levelled the match after a Wes Hoolahan goal put the Irish ahead early in the second half.
Sweden will have to get their act straight and play more as a unit if they want to get a result against Italy. The Azzurri's will have to do what they do best i.e. be tactically disciplined and attack when the opponent looks vulnerable.
While Zlatan Ibrahimovic is an obvious inclusion in any list featuring players to watch out for, we take a look at five other players who could play a crucial role in their side’s chances to advance to the knockout stages.
1) Leonardo Bonucci
Leonardo Bonucci is one of the best ball-playing defenders in the world at present. The 29-year old has been rock-solid in the heart of Juventus’ defence and helped them to a fifth consecutive Serie A title this year. Bonucci is showing his calibre on the European stage as well by combining with Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli to form Italy’s back three.
It’s not only because of the defensive skills he possesses but a finesse with the ball in his feet which makes him a priceless asset for both the Bianconeris and the Italy national team, which was on full display against Belgium in the last match.
After winning a header, he skillfully chipped a 25-yard long-ball over Belgium’s defensive line for Giaccherini to score past Courtois.
On the defensive front, he made some impeccably timed blocks and showed tactical discipline throughout the game. One such instance was the yellow card he took for the team when Divock Origi broke out and he had to make the necessary foul to stop the counter-attack.
Bonucci is a player who will influence the game greatly. He will be responsible for marking Sweden hitman Ibrahimovic, maintaining the Italy backline and occasionally creating attacking chances as he did last night against Belgium.