Italy will miss the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958 after a 1-0 aggregate loss to Sweden. The azzurri slumped to a one-goal defeat in Stockholm and could not find a way through at the San Siro. Switzerland also held onto a one-goal lead in their second leg with Northern Ireland after winning 1-0 in Belfast thanks to a highly controversial penalty. … [Read more...] about World Cup 2018: which teams have made it to Russia?
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O’Neills embody cerebral tradition of Blanchflower and Irish game’s best 3) Messi’s arrival likely to upstage host nation Lionel Messi and Argentina touched down in Moscow on Monday, doubtless still relieved that they will be able to do the same in seven months’ time. Argentina squeaked home last month thanks to that timely hat-trick from their talisman against Ecuador; they now need to find some consistency and on paper Saturday’s friendly with a creaking Russia side is an opportunity to get into the groove. Stanislav Cherchesov’s team remain unloved and may find that most gazes inside the Luzhniki Stadium are centred on their celebrity visitor. Back in June, Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence drew far louder screams – and, for that matter, bums on seats – than anything the hosts could produce. It would be a major shot in the arm if Russia could cause some excitement this time around but it remains difficult to see where any spark will … [Read more...] about World Cup play-offs, final qualifiers and friendlies: 10 things to look out for
The Roma midfielder, Daniele De Rossi, meanwhile, has said that Italy must be angry against Sweden to win the two-legged play-off. “Losing this play-off would be a black mark on my career,” he said. “The experience [we have got in the team] counts for a lot but we also have to be angry, furious, lucid and organised. … [Read more...] about Zlatan Ibrahimovic: my Sweden career is over even if they reach World Cup
Lazio’s Ciro Immobile is in top form and has scored 14 goals in his first 11 Serie A matches. Andrea Belotti is injured so Italy will need Immobile’s goals. But I think the key player for Italy is Marco Verratti. He is a top-class midfielder, but has never been able to play regularly in the national team due to continuous injuries. The performances of veteran players such as Daniele De Rossi, Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli will also be decisive. It will be very hard to succeed if these players underperform. … [Read more...] about World Cup 2018: fans from around Europe preview the play-offs
Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Republic of Ireland and Greece are just two games away from securing a place at next summer’s World Cup. Now that your opponents have been revealed for next month’s two-legged play-offs, we’d like to hear from fans of the eight countries taking part. … [Read more...] about World Cup 2018 play-offs: how do you rate your team’s chances?